Washington State – I Quit and Signed a Release of Liability – Now What?
After almost 20 years working at the same company, I just quit my job due to a hostile environment that I could no longer endure – emotionally or physically. It started because I reported on a co-worker who was engaged in some unethical practices.
The investigation uncovered a lot of mis-conduct and many people were involved – including my boss. My name was supposed to be kept confidential, but it was leaked, and the retaliation was brutal. The types of things my co-workers did to me ranged from the standard silent treatment, menacing glares, destroying my files, and even vandalizing my car while it was parked on company property. I just felt attacked everyday and I got pretty sick from the stress (bleeding ulcer, depression). It was awful because I was the one who had actually done the RIGHT thing, and the company was so grateful that I had made the initial report, but my co-workers were FURIOUS.
After learning that I had spoken with an employment lawyer, the company offered me a separation package in exchange for a signed release of liability and confidentiality agreement. Part of that agreement also states that the company will not fight any claim I make for unemployment benefits.
This is where I need your help. I can’t figure out how to move forward because this seems complicated to me. When I file a claim for benefits, what do you suggest I say the reason was for my leaving? Would the “Mutual Agreement” be best in this case? Or, do I put in “Voluntarily Quit” and say it was due to a hostile work environment? Or say I quit due to stress-related health ailments brought on by the bad environment at work? I know my doctor would write a letter supporting that.
Another point is that if I’m asked for documentation to support my case, I’m kind-of in a pickle because I don’t know if I can show the liability release without actually violating the terms of confidentiality!
Any advice you could give me would be really, really appreciated! Thank you so much!
(Oh, and BTW – the separation package I got will only cover me for a couple of months, which is why I still need my benefits. I just don’t want to sound greedy.)
You are asking some really good questions, however, to answer most would have me coming dangerously close to telling you what even I myself would seek legal advice for .. maybe from that employment attorney your employer found out you contacted.
As for whether you should choose voluntary quit or mutual agreement (my state doesn’t have that option .. at least I don’t recall it being one) as the reason for separation, I think I’d look to the language of the separation agreement releasing the employer from future liabilities to see what it calls the separation.
I’d also pay close attention to what precisely, i have to remain confidential about.
As for submitting the actual agreement as evidence, in the event of a hearing, I’d probably first look to the OAH library to find whether hearings conducted by them become public record or not .. or, I’d save myself a headache and spend a few bucks to “Ask a Lawyer” online at justanswer.com;).
Seems like a simple straight forward question for an employment attorney.
I for one, if I assume you have no reason to be dishonest about what happened to you, hardly think you’ve been greedy, or would be collecting unemployment to keep on being greedy.
You sound like you were brave .. and HR has got a work culture gone crazy on their hands .. with little support from those who boss HR around.