If your employer has presented you with a severance agreement, you should almost never sign without speaking to an employment attorney first. More likely than not, the severance agreement contains several promises that you must undertake for your employer. Signing a severance agreement without understanding these promises may be a big mistake. If you are 40 or older, your employer must provide you with at least twenty-one days to review the agreement pursuant to the Older Worker Benefit Protection Act. If you are under 40, you should still ask for some time to review the agreement. Use this time to consult with an attorney.
Even if the severance agreement is fair in and of itself, the amount of severance may not reflect the value that you are giving your employer in light of your particular circumstances. There are no rules with respect to severance – you are not likely entitled to severance, so what you get may come down to negotiation. A good employment attorney can help you to negotiate a better severance package which is fair in light of your situation.
If your employment was terminated under circumstances which seem discriminatory to you, signing a severance would preclude you for bringing suit to address the discrimination or other illegal conduct. If you have a viable claim, you should know about it and use this knowledge to leverage a better severance.
Not only are you giving up the right to sue your employer, you may be making other promises to your employer as well, like cooperating if the employer gets sued in the future, not disparaging the employer, and maintaining confidentiality. Absent an agreement, you are not required to do this by law, so if your employer wants you to do something, you should be compensated accordingly.
Our firm reviews and negotiates severance agreements all the time. We charge a reasonable flat fee for a full review of the severance agreement, and then a percentage based on improvement of severance. Think about your options before you sign. Even if we cannot enhance your severance package, we will provide you with a paragraph-by-paragraph review of your agreement. Contact us for more information. We would be happy to help.