How can I make sure my severance package is what it should be?
Sometimes, your employer may simply decide to downsize, but if this happens to you, you will usually be entitled to severance pay if you are laid off due to no fault of your own. Severance is additional pay granted to a departing employee in exchange for a release of claims against the employer. However, the nature of the situation in which most severance agreements are offered means that the employee may feel pressured to sign. It is a good idea to consult an attorney before actually executing the agreement.
Severance Is A Binding Contract
There are certain benchmarks that a severance agreement must meet for it to be considered equitable (fair) and enforceable. Generally, a severance package, like any other binding contract, must grant you and the employer both something of value, referred to as consideration. Usually, this is a money payment for the employee and the release of claims against the employer for them. However, many choose to execute severance agreements when they do not truly know the value of any of their potential claims.
If you are asked to sign a severance package, be advised that there are certain laws that protect your rights and preserve the chance for you to bring claims that have merit. For example, if you are over the age of 40, the Older Workers’ Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) protects you even if you waive your right to sue. You also have 7 days after signing the agreement in which you can revoke it. These laws only apply to certain groups, however, so the average worker may have no real protection if they go through with the agreement before consulting an attorney.
Some Claims Cannot Be Waived
In New York, employers are not required to offer severance in most situations, but if they do, it is important to keep in mind that you are not required to sign a severance agreement, no matter how much your employer may request it. Employers are often highly motivated to get you to agree to a severance package, because if you sign, you give up the chance to prosecute any kind of dispute you may have with them – for example, discrimination or wrongful termination lawsuits.
That said, it is worth noting that certain claims are not waivable even if you do sign a severance agreement – perhaps the most important being Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) claims. This also applies to claims filed under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), such as wage & hour claims or suits having to do with unpaid overtime. If your employer tries to push you into signing anything that claims to disavow these, consulting an experienced attorney is crucial.
Call A New York Severance Negotiation Attorney
Leaving a job, especially if it is not due to your own choice, is a disconcerting situation. Do not allow the pressure to coerce you into signing a severance agreement that does not give you what you deserve. The New York City severance review & negotiation attorneys at Mansell Law, LLC can help answer any questions you may have about your situation, and give you the help you need to make the best choice. Contact us today at 646-921-8900 for a free consultation.