Negotiating a Better Severance Package
If you’re employed in the United States in a state other than California, New York, or New Jersey, there’s a good chance your employment is considered at-will, meaning you may leave your job at any time for any reason. As an at-will employee, your employer also can dismiss you without warning for any reason, as long as it isn’t illegal. If your employer dismisses you, you may be offered a severance agreement (also called a severance package). Due to the legal complexities involved with severance agreements, it’s in your best interest to hire an attorney to review the terms of your contract and help you protect your rights. You want to make sure that you understand what you are giving up by signing a severance agreement, how much you will be receiving, and whether you are going to have any continuing responsibilities to your former employer. If you could use assistance with severance agreements in the South Florida area, which includes Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, trust the FairLaw Firm to guide you. There may be less-than-obvious clauses buried in the severance agreement that could be harmful to your future. Rely on our experienced employment attorney, Brian H. Pollock, to help you try to negotiate a better severance package without resorting to litigation.
What Is a Severance Agreement or Severance Package?
A severance agreement serves as a contract between you and your employer documenting the responsibilities of both parties upon and after your termination. Items usually covered in a severance agreement include the amount of severance pay you can expect to receive and how long your additional benefits or health insurance will still be provided. Many employers will also ask you to sign an agreement stating you will not file a wrongful termination, discrimination, sexual harassment, or unpaid wage lawsuit. They also can include a non-compete clause, which means you will not be able to pursue a position with one of your employer’s direct competitors – or take a job in the same line of work – and/or that you will not try and take any co-workers with you – for up to two years. You can also count on your employer requiring you to keep the terms of the severance – or other information you learned during your employment – confidential, possibly with a penalty if you violate the confidentiality provision. Employers also usually require that former employees agree to cooperate (often without additional pay) in any investigations or lawsuits that happen afterwards – so while you are working for your new employer. While some employers choose to offer severance, especially if you have provided many years of devoted service, most employers are not legally required to offer severance in the State of Florida unless there is a contract, policy, or handbook provision requiring one. Your employer could have an ulterior motive, such as to prevent you from pursuing a valuable claim, and so you should never sign a severance agreement without first consulting with a lawyer skilled in reviewing these documents. Keep on reading to learn more about severance agreements and why you should be wary of “free money” from a former employer.
Why Hire an Attorney to Help with Your Severance Package?
There are several valid reasons why you should consider hiring an attorney to assist with all severance package negotiations, including the following:
Familiarity with Severance Pay
Thanks to our over 20 years of experience, our employment attorneys are familiar with the usual range of severance pay for specific professions and industries in Miami and surrounding South Florida communities. We’ll make sure you’re compensated fairly. Don’t leave money that is owed to you just lying on the table when you walk away from your employer. Rely on an attorney who knows the ins and outs of severance agreements to ensure no stones remain unturned.
Time for Review
Many employers try to have you sign the severance agreement before leaving, but laws such as the Older Worker Benefits Protection Act (OWBPA) require that workers over 40 be given time to consider the agreement – and then more time to back out of the agreement after it is signed. If you are over 40 years old, then you cannot legally be pressured to sign a severance agreement on the spot and be bound to that agreement.
Compensation for Benefits
Your severance agreement should include details about what benefits you may be entitled to receive upon your termination. For example, federal laws dictate you should be able to remain under your employer’s medical plan at least temporarily under COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985). You may also be entitled to compensation for any unused vacation or sick time, vested pension benefits, or other unreimbursed expenses, even if you sign a severance agreement. We not only try to negotiate pay, but also additional benefits to our clients.
Explanation of Clauses
Severance agreements usually contain the addition of many clauses that may be challenging to understand without a legal background. You have the right to seek legal advice before signing a severance agreement. Remember, any oral promises made by your employer are not legally binding unless they’re included in the written severance agreement. Having our employment attorneys look over the severance agreement draft ensures that everything is in writing for your protection. You may be giving up rights unwittingly by signing it blindly.
Schedule a Consultation with a FairLaw Firm Attorney Today
The FairLaw Firm has years of expertise helping employees and employers negotiate employment and severance agreements in Miami and its surrounding areas in South Florida. Whether your employment was terminated by a private or public employer, you can count on our attorney to help you make the most of your severance package without resorting to litigation in many cases. Our law firm is dedicated to ensuring you are treated and compensated fairly for your years of hard work and devoted service.
In addition to severance agreements, we also assist with cases involving unpaid wages and overtime, discrimination in the workplace, wrongful termination, and more. Whatever employment issue you may be facing, we’d like to help. The majority of our cases are taken on a contingency fee basis, meaning we only get paid if you do. If you’ve been fired or laid off and your employer wants you to sign a severance agreement, protect yourself by reaching out to a knowledgeable employment attorney. Contact our Miami employment law office today to request a case evaluation from a member of our friendly, bilingual staff!