Elements of New York Severance Agreements

Almost everyone who calls us about New York severance agreements is only interested in the bottom line - i.e the money.  To be sure, the money is very important.  That being said, money is not the only important aspect of New York severance agreements.  Below, we discuss some of the most important elements contained in typical New York severance agreements.

  • Time to Consider the Severance Agreement:  If you are forty (40) or older, you are entitled to at least twenty-one (21) days to consider New York severance agreements. If several employees are terminated at the same time, this may be considered a “group layoff.”  When a severance agreement is offered as part of a group layoff, and a single employee is over the age of forty (40), then every employee regardless of age must be given forty-five (45) days to consider the agreement.  Otherwise, there is no requirement that an employee be provided any amount of time to consider their agreement.  Therefore, in evaluating your New York Severance Agreement, you should definitely think about how much time you have to consider the agreement.  Make sure you have enough to make an informed decision.
  • Revocation Period:  For employees over forty (40), the severance agreement must contain an unwaiveable seven (7) day revocation period, during which time the employee may revoke an agreement, even though he or she already signed it.  This 7-day window cannot be waived or changed by either the employer or the employee.
  • Release of Claims:  Employers do not hand out New York severance agreements just to be nice - they do so in exchange for a release of claims.  Put simply, if you sign a severance agreement, you cannot sue your employer (there are exceptions to this, but these are fairly narrow).  Thus, most severance agreements contain a release of a variety of claims, including claims based upon your age, race, national origin, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation, etc. It may also include a release of all claims, whether known to you or not at the signing of the agreement.  So know this, if you sign, you cannot sue your employer.
  • Consideration:  For most New York Severance Agreements, consideration is just a fancy lawyer word for money.  Consideration is required for any agreement/contract.  It is the exchange of things of value.  In exchange for the employee's agreement not to sue the company (the employee's consideration), the employer provides the employee with: money, a reference, etc.  Consideration must be above and beyond what the employee would otherwise be entitled to - in other words, if you are only being paid what you are already entitled to, this is not consideration.
  • Restrictive Covenants:  These are things like non-compete agreements, non solicitation agreements and confidentiality agreements.  Some employers place restrictive covenants into the their severance agreements.  Thus, it is critical that the employee understands what covenants would apply to them if they sign a severance agreement.

Talk to a lawyer.  There is a lot to think about before signing a severance agreement.  If the agreement fair?  Are you being adequately compensated?  Are you giving up the right to file a viable lawsuit?  Answering these questions is not easy.  But an experienced employment lawyer can help you navigate these choppy waters.  Contact us today for a free initial consultation.  Call us now at 646.524.6001 to speak to an experienced New York Severance Agreement Attorney.