Severance Agreements & NegotiationWe advise all employees to contact an attorney after receiving a severance agreement. In our experience, employers are more likely to enhance your severance pay and benefits when a lawyer negotiates on your behalf.
In addition to greater severance pay, our attorneys have been successful in negotiating changes in termination classification, from terminated to resigned, and in securing agreements to provide positive job references. We also will review your employer’s actions for any unlawful acts during your employment that may entitle you to additional compensation.
Why Contact an Attorney to Review a Severance Agreement?
You should contact a lawyer immediately after receiving a severance agreement. Every severance agreement includes a deadline for the employee to accept it. A lawyer will need a reasonable amount of time to interview you and review your employment documents in order to create a list of demands and negotiation strategy. If you wait to contact a lawyer after the deadline passes, then your former employer may have no incentive to participate in a negotiation, leaving you with no severance package.
Our lawyers are skilled and experienced in employment law and protecting employee rights. We review and negotiate severance agreements to help terminated employees enhance their severance packages. Typically, we will negotiate for the largest amount of severance pay, as well as any other payments to which you may have a right to claim.
Most importantly, we protect your future ability to find new employment in your industry and region. Executives, skilled professionals, sales people, health care providers and others often sign non-compete and non-disclosure agreements. We will identify strategies that leverage your employer’s treatment of you in an effort to re-negotiate these agreements so that you have more freedom in selecting your next employment opportunity.
Severance Agreement Deadlines
Employers provide deadlines for an employee to accept a severance agreement. Meeting the deadline is crucial for receiving your pay and benefits, and you should contact a lawyer as early as possible to begin reviewing your employment documents.
The amount of time you receive for accepting the agreement depends on your age. Employees age 40 and older must receive 21 days to review and accept the severance agreement, as required by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). If you felt pressured to sign an agreement, the law gives you seven days to revoke your signature. You may still have time to consult an attorney. Contact us immediately if you have any questions.
Employees terminated as part of a larger Reduction in Force (RIF) must have 45 days to consider severance agreements. Our firm will clarify any deadlines for you if you’re unaware of the amount of time you’re entitled to receive under the law.
Severance Agreements are Written to Protect Employers
Employers write severance agreements to protect themselves. Severance agreements can limit your future ability to work and require you to release your employer from all legal claims. We negotiate the agreement to protect you.
In addition to ADEA, a second important law called the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) presents more requirements that employers must follow in terminations and severance agreements. Many of the requirements in these laws are related to timelines, age discrimination waivers and certain rights that an employee may not be permitted to waive. When reviewing your severance agreements, our attorneys will make sure that your employer is following the law and that the agreement protects your rights.
Many parts of a severance agreement are written exclusively to protect your employer. Your lawyer may negotiate with your employer to change any section that may limit your ability to continue working in your field, or even your city. The agreement may even limit your ability to solicit business or hire former co-workers. You may even be prohibited from using technical skills and information that you brought to your former employer. Employers also include clauses that require you to pay them damages should you breach any part of the agreement.
These sections of a severance agreement that a lawyer may help you understand and negotiate include:
- Non-Disparagement Provisions
- Confidentiality Clauses
- Liquidated Damages
- Non-Compete Provisions
- Non-Solicitation Provisions
- Venue Provisions
- Non-Cooperation Provisions
Severance Pay & Waiving Legal Claims
We will help you negotiate the best severance package available from your employer. You should never leave your pay behind. We can negotiate for more of your salary and payment of benefits, including COBRA health insurance coverage.
Employers routinely offer the least amount of severance pay they believe that employees may accept in order to entice them to waive all of their legal claims. However, you don’t have to waive your claims and accept their first offer. An attorney will advise you on the amount of compensation an employer may actually be willing to pay you in exchange for your waivers. The amount may be far greater than the first offer if the employer violated any of your employment rights.
Unlawful Actions by Employers
We’ll review the reasons for your termination and uncover any unlawful acts related to it. We will make sure that your employer treated you fairly during your employment, and we will explore any employment claims related to discrimination, harassment, wages, unpaid commissions or other unlawful actions. Depending on your situation, you may be entitled to damages that exceed the amount of severance pay that an employer is offering.
If an employer treated you improperly, you will be able leverage the threat of litigation to gain better terms and severance pay; or you may choose not to sign an agreement and pursue litigation options.
Employee Rights Under the Law
Employers must follow the requirements of many federal, state and local employment laws. Oftentimes, an employer doesn’t provide adequate training on employment laws to supervisors or HR managers. These managers frequently are involved in terminations that violate an employee’s rights.
Federal Laws Relating to Severance Agreements:
- Americans with Disabilities Act
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Family & Medical Leave Act
- Employee Retirement Income Security Act
- Various Whistleblower Laws
- False Claims Act
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act
- Older Workers Benefit Protection Act
State Laws Relating to Severance Agreements:
- DC Human Rights Act
- DC Wage Payment Collection Act
- Virginia Human Rights Act
- Virginia Wage Payment Act
- Various Whistleblower Laws
- Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act
- Maryland Wage Payment & Collection Law
- Older Workers Benefit Protection Act
Our attorneys will review your employer’s actions and your agreements to ensure that none of your federal, state or local employment rights were violated.
Employers Have Legal Representation
Severance agreement negotiation is nothing new for employers. It’s a routine business matter that often is handled or managed by the employer’s attorneys. Employers are accustomed to negotiating with lawyers who represent employees. If this is your first time facing this situation, then you have nothing to fear in contacting an attorney to review your severance agreement. Working with an attorney will not hurt your professional relationships. Regardless of the reason you are leaving, your lawyer will help to protect your rights and your future career.