Been a Victim of Layoff or Termination?

It can be scary facing a layoff or termination. If you are facing this predicament, you probably have a lot of questions: Will I receive severance pay? Will severance come in one lump sum or spread out? What will a severance package look like? What will happen to my medical benefits? An experienced employment attorney can help you navigate these questions.

Things you need to know when you are terminated and offered a severance agreement:

  1. Without a written agreement, a terminated employee is not guaranteed a severance package. It’s important to review your severance package carefully and consult a lawyer. If you have an existing employment agreement regarding severance, such as in your employment contract or employee handbook, your employer does have the obligation to honor the contract. Be sure to review the original language with your attorney to ensure you receive everything you are entitled to under your agreement.
  1. An employment severance agreement attorney can review, discuss, negotiate and often improve upon a Severance Package. You should understand the Severance Agreement and Release and always consult with an attorney before signing a Severance Agreement and Release. A lawyer can help negotiate a fair severance package that maximizes your pay and benefits while explaining the details of the contract.
  1. A Severance Agreement is a contract between an employer and an employee. In most situations, the employee will be asked to sign a release giving up his or her right to sue the employer and the employee will be provided additional compensation, benefits or other consideration for giving up this right. The employer and employee can agree on other issues as well such as covenants to not compete, confidentiality agreements and non-solicitation agreements. By signing the contract, both the employer and the employee demonstrate their intent to be bound by the terms of the agreement, resolving any disputes between them and agreeing to terminate the employment relationship.
  1. You should discuss your termination with an attorney to make sure you aren’t giving up a claim. Was the termination for some wrong doing, an elimination of the position, or some other reason. An attorney can discern if the employee has possible claims against the employer, and if an employee is releasing potential claims by signing the Severance Agreement and Release. The Minnesota Human Rights Act protects employees from discrimination with regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, familial status, disability, membership or activity in a local commission, sexual orientation, or age. Federal laws also protect employees from discrimination and there are many exceptions to the employee at-will doctrine, so you should not assume that you don’t have a claim for wrongful termination.
  2. It is important to remember that almost everything regarding a Severance Agreement is negotiable. The amount of the severance payment, whether your employer will continue to pay a portion or your health benefits under COBRA, whether a bonus will be paid out, if you can keep sick pay or PTO. There are many factors to consider and details to be negotiated. It can feel, as a terminated employee, that you have no leverage. However, you are not required to sign anything you don’t understand. You can always turn to an experienced employment law attorney to guide you through the process.

You should contact an experienced employment attorney if you have questions regarding severance agreements. Contact Holden Law Firm and ask to speak to John Holden to discuss your employment law questions.

John C. Holden, Esq.
Holden Law Firm
5200 Willson Road, Suite 150
Edina, MN  55424