Court Upholds Waiver of Claims in RIF Buy-out

Collette Hampton worked on an assembly line in a Ford Motor Co. factory in Chicago from February 2004 to January 2007. During that time, she alleges she was sexually harassed "almost daily" by male co-workers, who made lewd comments, sent her sexually suggestive notes, requested sexual favors and physically grabbed her. Hampton requested a transfer, complained to several supervisors and called the company's harassment hot line. She says the company didn't do enough to stop her co-workers' behavior. She eventually took a medical leave for stress and depression.

Hampton hired an attorney and filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in December 2005, seeking the right to sue Ford for what she said was a hostile work environment. While the EEOC was investigating her claim, the auto industry was starting to experience major financial problems. In September 2006, the United Auto Workers, which represented Hampton, agreed to a one-time voluntary buyout of 75,000 unionized Ford employees.

Contract Considerations

In Hampton v. Ford, numerous factors played in Ford's favor. The plaintiff received a large payout, she had an attorney at the time she signed the agreement, and if she hadn't taken the buyout, she would have been terminated anyway. She even had some paralegal training, including a course on contracts, which the 7th Circuit noted in its decision. All of these factors made it easy for the court to decide that the agreement was fair and Hampton accepted it knowingly.

Adele Nicholas

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