Typically, when your employment has been terminated, the employer may offer you a severance agreement. That is, a contract where the employer offers to pay you money (severance) and you agree not to sue the employer for anything. You should seriously consider any such offer. After all, you just lost your job, so getting some income, whether it is one month or four or five, is worth thinking about. But, before signing on the bottom line, here are some things to consider:
1. Your employer assuredly spoke with any attorney prior to offering the severance and the employer’s attorney probably wrote the agreement. So, maybe you should have your own attorney look it is to make sure you are not getting ripped off.
2. Employment law is complicated. When you sign a severance agreement, you are agreeing not to make any legal claims, such as for discrimination, whistleblowing, failure to provide disability accommodations, or anything else. Before giving up those rights, it makes sense to find out whether you have any such potential claims that you could bring.
3. Severance agreements often contain non-disparagement clauses (mutual or one-way promises not to bad-mouth the other party), liquidated damages clauses (requiring payment if you violate a provision), confidentiality (even from close friends and colleagues), and reaffirmations of restrictive covenants (like non-compete agreements, which may be unenforceable). These provisions are important and should be discussed.
A one-hour consultation with an experienced attorney who has reviewed your documents will help you understand all these provisions and make an informed decision. Many times, signing the agreement is the right choice. Other times, there are good factual and legal grounds to negotiate for a higher amount of severance, or for changes in the other terms of the agreement. Sometimes, you find out from your consultation that you have legal claims you never knew you had.
Losing your job can be stressful. We can help remove one of those stress points by making sure that any severance agreement that you do sign is fair and gives you reasonable value for the claims you are setting aside. And if not, we are prepared to represent you in bringing those claims forward.