When a job separation occurs, for any reason, the anxiety can be overwhelming. Some employers will offer severance packages to employees. However, companies do not provide these separation packages out of the goodness of their hearts. Severance agreements reduce an employer’s liability and lessen the chances of a former employee filing a lawsuit or damaging the company’s reputation. The employer’s proposed agreement is always written with the employer’s best interest in mind.
Whether or not a proposed Separation Agreement makes sense for your situation requires taking a look at the circumstances that lead to your termination. If you have strong legal claims, the amount of money your employer is offering might not be enough. You also will want to make sure you understand what you and your Employer are both agreeing to, and whether the terms are standard or if there is something unusual buried in the fine print. Negotiating better terms happens all the time.
What happens once I receive a severance agreement?
Upon receiving a separation agreement, your employer will usually give you time to consider their offer. Although there are no guidelines requiring organizations to provide employees a specific amount of time for contractual review, there are two federal laws designed to protect particular classes of workers.
Under the Older Workers Benefits Protection Act (“OWBPA”) employers must give workers over 40 years old at least 21 days to consider the separation agreement and 7 days to revoke it after it’s signed. Under the Worker Adjustment and Training Notification Act (“WARN”), organizations with more than 100 employees must give workers at least 60 days notice of any company or sizeable departmental closing. If the employer fails to comply with WARN, then the laid-off workers are legally entitled to severance pay.
My employer says that the severance agreement is non-negotiable, is that true?
Your employer may tell you that their separation agreement is non-negotiable, but that is not necessarily true. There are almost always terms up for negotiation when it comes to severance contracts. Some common negotiated terms include the dollar amount, payment for vacation and sick time, and the timing of and method in which your former employer will distribute your severance payments. The best way to ensure that the terms of your severance contract are reasonable in your situation is to consult with an attorney before you sign.
What rights am I giving up by signing a severance agreement?
While the terms of separation agreements vary, almost all of them require that employees give up certain rights and agree to certain conditions. Some common rights and conditions include the right to sue your employer, the right to compete against your former company in business within a specific geographic location for a period of time (non-compete), the right to disclose the terms of the agreement to outside parties (non-disclosure), and guardrails about how either side can talk about the other (non-disparagement).
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