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A written release extinguishes any obligation covered by the release's terms, provided it has not been obtained by fraud, deception, misrepresentation, duress, or undue influence.
To receive severance benefits after his discharge, plaintiff Marko Skrbina signed a release of all state or federal employment laws and regulations claims. Plaintiff then filed a complaint against defendants, employer and associated individuals, alleging wrongful discharge and employment discrimination based on his age and disability. The trial court granted summary judgment to defendants and dismissed plaintiff's claims, holding that plaintiff could not avoid the effect of his release by invoking the Older Workers' Benefits Protection Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 626(f)(1) because he had abandoned any claim under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 621 et seq which he might otherwise have had. Plaintiff appealed.
Did plaintiff’s signed release bar his suit against the defendants?
On appeal, the court affirmed, holding that the signed release barred his suit as a matter of law and that he was not coerced into signing the release, because he was only entitled to receive the severance benefits by the terms of the release agreement. The court also held that the antiwaiver provisions of § 626(f)(1) of the Older Workers' Benefits Protection Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 626(f)(1), only applied to rights or claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 621 et seq., which he did not assert. Further, the court concluded that the release included California's Fair Employment and Housing Act, Cal. Gov't Code § 12900 et seq., because it applied to any and all claims under state or federal employment laws and regulations.