By Shelby Krzastek
Former UBS Securities, LLC (UBS) employees Shannon Zoller and Alexander Beigelman claim that UBS forced laid-off employees to release claims against UBS to receive deferred compensation to which they were already entitled under their employment contract. The policy allegedly breaches UBS’s employee contract and violates New York and Illinois state labor laws, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act. On December 12, 2016, Zoller and Beigelman filed a putative class action against UBS in the U.S. District Court of Illinois.
The suit alleges that, in February 2013, numerous subsidiaries of UBS implemented a policy requiring any employee laid off during staff reductions to sign a waiver and release of claims in order to receive previously earned deferred compensation. According to Zoller and Beigelman, UBS hid the policy in an appendix to a document accompanying the employee contract.
Zoller and Beigelman allege that UBS waits to terminate its employees until it is within an IRS grace period so that it can receive tax deductions for deferred compensations earned by employees in the previous tax year without having yet paid them. Then, Zoller and Beigelman claim, before the employees have received their money, UBS confronts them with an ultimatum: Sign the release, or forfeit all earned incentive compensation, deferred compensation, and severance pay. Plaintiffs allege that, by scheduling layoffs during the IRS grace period, UBS is able to reap the benefits of tax deductions from its employees’ deferred compensation and report the deferred compensation as an expense and liability on its financial filings, while avoiding paying the deferred compensation if the laid-off employees refuse to sign the release.
The discrimination claims are brought on behalf of any former UBS employee over the age of 40 who was forced to sign the release or lose their deferred compensation. Zoller and Beigelman claim that the policy unfairly impacts UBS’s oldest employees because those older employees earn more deferred compensation than younger, more recently hired staff members. The suit demands that UBS rescind the releases signed by former staff members, stop the implementation of those releases, and pay severance, deferred compensation, and damages to affected former employees of UBS.
All workers have the right to a fair workplace. Employees in New York are protected against age discrimination by employment discrimination laws including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law. If your employer has discriminated against you because of your age, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.