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Oubre v. Entergy Operations, Inc.

United States Supreme Court
522 U.S. 422 (1998)


Facts

Dolores Oubre (plaintiff) received an unfavorable performance review from her employer, Entergy Operations, Inc. (Entergy) (defendant). Oubre’s supervisor gave her the choice of either improving her job performance or accepting termination with a severance offer. Oubre was allowed 14 days to consider the offer. After speaking with lawyers, Oubre accepted the severance package. Oubre signed a form releasing Entergy from liability for any claims she may have had against it. As consideration for the release, Oubre received severance totaling $6,258, paid in six installments over a four-month period. After Oubre received the final installment, she filed a lawsuit against Entergy under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., alleging she was unlawfully terminated because of her age. Oubre argued the release form she signed did not comply with federal statutory requirements governing release of claims under the ADEA. Entergy contended that, by accepting the severance payments, Oubre effectively validated the claims release, despite any defects, and further, that Oubre’s lawsuit was barred unless she repaid the severance money. A district court granted summary judgment to Entergy, agreeing that Oubre had ratified the defective claims release by not returning the severance payments she received under the termination agreement. Oubre ultimately sought review by the United States Supreme Court, which was granted.

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Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

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