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Whitmer issues directive outlining rules for separation agreements

Gretchen Whitmer
Posted at 7:35 PM, Mar 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-13 19:35:59-05

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer released on Friday her first executive directive of 2021 on the use of separation agreements by state departments and agencies, with the goal of safeguarding the state from lawsuits and “reaffirming her commitment to accountability and transparency.”

“Michiganders should have confidence in the activities of state government, including the expenditure of public funds on separation agreements,” Whitmer said. “I am proud of these measures because they will benefit both state employees and the people of Michigan.”

Whitmer has recently come under fire for the use of separation agreements with three high-profile departures, including former MDHHS Director Robert Gordon and UIA Director Steve Gray.

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The governor has said separation agreements are common, though some have accused her administration of using them as “hush money.”

A news release Friday said separation agreements can be used to define the terms of employment during a period of transition, to secure the return of state property and to mitigate legal exposure and potential costs to taxpayers through a release of claims against the state.

Whitmer’s executive directive outlines the rules for these agreements used by the state’s executive branch.

It prohibits terms in agreements that require a party to deny the existence of the agreement or prevent the release of the text of the agreement.

In addition, the directive provides that any separation agreement involving a monetary payment must secure a release of claims and be based on a reasonable judgment that securing the release of claims will mitigate financial risk for the state and protect taxpayer money.

Under the new directive, separation agreements cannot deny a party the right or opportunity to disclose the underlying facts and circumstances regarding unlawful workplace acts including discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment or fraud.

A clause that protects the identity of the victim, however, may be included at the request of the victim.

Finally, before finalization, all separation agreements must be submitted to the attorney general for review.

Read the full executive directive here.