When you are laid off or terminated from a job, your employer might choose to offer you a severance package, which includes a monetary payment in exchange for relinquishment of some of your legal rights. Most of these agreements will restrict your ability to pursue future legal action against your employer or limit how you can publicly speak about your job or the company.
Deciding to give up your legal rights is a significant choice requiring careful consideration. The monetary incentives of a severance package can be tantalizing, but in many cases, the finite reward is not worth the risk of losing future legal abilities. This is especially true in situations where you have suspicions you were wrongfully terminated or retaliated against and thus have grounds to mount a lawsuit against your employer.
Determining how to approach a severance agreement and severance package can be overwhelming, especially if you feel vulnerable as a result of your loss of employment. Still, if you are considering signing a severance agreement, you should know what you are giving up and get the most lucrative payout possible.
Our San Diego severance negotiation lawyers at Haeggquist & Eck, LLP are prepared to help you decipher your severance agreement and get a full understanding of what rights you will relinquish by signing. We can also work with you to negotiate the size of your severance package and help you determine if you should accept a package or consider other legal options if you have been the victim of wrongful termination or retaliation.
Employees in California are not automatically guaranteed a severance package when being terminated by their employer, even if the dismissal is without cause. Larger companies often have their own codified policies on when severance packages are offered. Salaried and other high-ranking employees may be able to negotiate a guaranteed severance offer as a condition of employment when being hired. Belonging to a union may also increase your odds of being offered one.
Your employer might give you a deadline by which you need to give a decision on whether you will be signing the severance agreement and accepting a package. This is a negotiation tactic, and you should not be intimidated: Your employer very much would prefer you sign the severance agreement and will likely give you additional time if necessary.
Your employer can under no circumstances intimidate, pressure, or bully you into signing a severance agreement. They also cannot lie about its contents, so you should always ask questions about what each term means. Severance agreements that are signed under these types of conditions will generally not be enforceable in court. If you have previously signed a severance agreement and believe you were coerced into doing so, our San Diego severance negotiation attorneys can help.
Note that your employer is also not permitted to leverage or delay the issuing of any unpaid wages while any negotiation of a severance package takes place. There are specific rules regulating how final wages must be promptly paid when an employee is terminated. This not only includes your base wages, but also any overtime pay, and any unused vacation hours. Failure to release unpaid wages on-time is unlawful and can result in additional penalties for the employer.
One of the most important things to remember when presented with a severance package is you are under no obligation to accept it. Do not be swayed by the perception that you will be on bad terms with your employer should you choose not to sign a severance agreement. You are well within your rights to walk away from a negotiation if you are not satisfied with the terms.
No matter how positive a working experience you may have had with your employer, they are not offering the financial incentives of a severance package out of generosity or kindness. Your employer is looking to shield itself from future liability by convincing you to voluntarily relinquish key legal rights.
For this reason, it is essential to carefully review the implications of signing a severance agreement. Your employer will almost certainly be asking for significant rights to be given up.
If you have no intention of filing a lawsuit against your employer, agreeing to these typical provisions may not seem like a big deal. Keep in mind, however, that non-disparagement clauses can be extremely wide-reaching. For example, if you were laid off by your employer and signed a severance agreement with a non-disparagement clause, you would not be permitted to publicly criticize your company for initiating the layoffs.
Many terms common to severance agreements are considered legally enforceable. If you violate your agreement, you could face a lawsuit from your former employer. Companies will sometimes include clauses that include unenforceable elements, which can include non-compete clauses and terms that ask you to not report crimes. Our lawyers can perform a thorough review of a severance agreement to identify what is and is not enforceable and help you understand what rights you will be giving up by signing.
If you have never been offered a severance package, it can be intimidating to try and negotiate. You might also be overwhelmed if you did not anticipate losing your job. Our San Diego severance negotiation lawyers at Haeggquist & Eck, LLP are ready to guide you through this difficult moment and make sure you get the best deal possible.
If you had a contentious relationship with your former employer and believe you may have been the victim of wrongful termination or retaliation, you should under no circumstances accept a severance package without first consulting with a lawyer. We can assess the facts of your case and help you determine the best path forward.