Labor & Employment

Jurors to decide validity of right-to-sue waiver signed by Allstate agents who claim age bias

Thirteen years after filing their age bias case, 31 Allstate agents who signed a waiver giving up their right to sue are still waiting for a trial date.

Before their bias claims can be heard, jurors will decide whether the agents were coerced into signing the agreement, a judge ruled in February. According to the New York Times, “the case demonstrates the risks inherent in signing documents—as the agents did—agreeing not to sue.”

The agents were asked to sign the waiver as a condition to continue working for Allstate, albeit in a new capacity, the story says. The agents had been employees, but Allstate said the agents would become independent contractors, with no entitlement to health insurance, a retirement account or profit sharing.

If they refused to sign the release, Allstate would bar them from working as agents within one mile of their agencies for two years. The agents also allege they were told they couldn’t solicit their old customers, though that claim was not true. If they quit working for Allstate, those who didn’t sign would get only 13 weeks of severance, compared to six months for those who agreed to the waiver.

Ninety percent of the 6,200 agents affected by the change were over 40, the story says.

Allstate released a statement to the Times that says the agents were given “significant benefits to participate in such a change, including the ability to sell their agencies, which they could not have done as employees.” Higher commissions and a $5,000 signing bonus were also offered, the Times says, citing people with knowledge of the agreement. Some commissions were cut in 2003, however.

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