More often than not, a New York Severance Agreement includes a cooperation clause, which requires the employee to “cooperate” with the company that just let them go. This clause usually reads something like: “Employee agrees to cooperate with Employer in connection with any legal matters, if so requested by the Company, including agreeing to make himself or herself available at the Employer's request to assist with matters requiring the provision of information and/or testimony.”
What does this clause mean? Exactly what it says – if you sign a New York severance agreement, then you have to cooperate with your former employer in the event of a lawsuit in the future.
If you are offered a severance agreement, and it contains such a clause, you should ask that the cooperation clause in your New York Severance Agreement be amended to add some language to protect you. First, such cooperation should be arranged so as not to interfere with your future employment and/or business. Second, you should ask that you be paid for your time. You don’t want to be forced to help your former employer respond to complicated discovery requests or submit to endless deposition preparation sessions. You should be compensated for expenses, such as parking fees, gas mileage, and other out of pocket expenses incurred in this cooperation.
Asking this of your former employer is tough. For this reason, we recommend that you contact us before you sign any New York Severance Agreement – an experienced employment lawyer from our firm will get back to you within 24 hours.