These are frequently asked questions concerning Settlement Agreements.
|What are settlement agreements?||A settlement agreement is an agreement between the complainant(s) and the Agency, acting through an authorized official who is acting within his/her authority, to resolve the complaint(s) of discrimination filed against the agency.|
|Why should anyone consider a settlement agreement rather than allow a full investigation or adjudication of the EEO complaint to proceed?||Settlement agreement frequently allow the agency and the complainant(s) to resolve their differences more quickly, with less ill feelings, and in a manner that allows the parties to control the outcome rather than leaving it in the hands of a third party adjudicator or judge. Settlements create the opportunity for “win/win” scenarios addressing the parties’ interests; decisions mean there will be a winner and a loser, at considerable cost and time.|
|How are settlement agreements arrived at?||Typically, VA will offer alternative dispute resolution (ADR), usually through mediation, as a means for settling a complaint. ADR involves a neutral third party who assists the parties to reach an agreement that reflects their mutual interests. ADR is voluntary and does not require the parties to reach agreement.|
|When can settlements be arrived at?||Settlements using ADR or in direct negotiations between the parties and their representatives can be arrived at whenever the parties are prepared to talk from before the EEO complaint is file to after a hearing, but must be reached before a final decision.|
|Do I have to settle everything if I enter into a negotiated settlement?||The terms of settlements are controlled entirely by the parties and no issue has to be resolved unless the parties agree.|
|What happens if I decide to try to settle and no settlement occurs?||
EEOC regulations allow a party to enter into settlement discussions in lieu of counseling and to negotiate possible settlement after a formal complaint is filed. In either event, the complaint process will be suspended for 90 pending the outcome of the settlement discussions. An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) administrative judge may suspend a hearing to allow the parties to settle a case and will accept a settlement to resolve the case at any time before a final decision is reached.
The sooner a settlement is reached the better.
|What are settlement agreements like?||
Settlement agreements are typically written, must be signed by the parties, and set out the full terms of the parties’ resolution. An authorized official will sign for the agency and must be acting within his delegated authority to bind the agency. Most agreements contain standard clauses to cover issues that are germane to every settlement, such as attorney fees, waiver of rights, or effective dates.
VA’s standard agreements are set out below.
|What limits apply to settlement agreements?||Generally, settlement agreements can provide for no more than the relief that could be obtained if the case went to court and the complainant won.|
|Are there any special requirements that settlement agreements must cover to be effective?||Settlement agreements should cover the full terms of the parties’ agreement and clearly identify what rights are being surrendered and what is being offered in return. If both parties do not agree to undertake future, obligations not otherwise required, in return for each others’ commitments, the settlement agreement will not be binding.|
|Do special requirements apply to settlement agreements resolving age discrimination claims?||
Yes. Settlement agreements to resolve complaints of discrimination concerning age discrimination and waive the right to file that claim must meet the following written requirements:
• The waiver must be easily understood by the complainant.
• The agreement will not become effective and enforceable until the revocation period has expired.
|Are there any limitations on settlements of age discrimination claims?||Attorney fess cannot be paid for age discrimination claims complaints that are settled administratively. Fees may be paid if the settlement contains allegations of discrimination on other grounds as well and those claims are settled with the age discrimination claim.|
|Who can I contact if I have questions regarding settlement agreements?||
You may contact any one of the following ORM offices:
Workplace ADR: workplaceADR@ va.gov or (202) 461-0280
Office of Policy and Compliance: (202) 461-2680
ORM Ombudsman (for ORM employees only): (202) 461-0225