I was handed a severance agreement as I walked out the door. Now what?
Should you sign the release and waiver of all claims or not? Employers who offer a severance agreement with a release of all claims, generally want to get the release signed. The reason for this is that the release language in a severance agreement concludes the employment relationship and makes sure there is not going to be any future liability that arises. Because of this motivation employers will typically grant a reasonable extension of time to an employee to allow time to consider signing the release and meet with an employment law attorney.
When you meet with a lawyer bring a copy of the severance agreement. Also bring any other agreements you have signed with the employer. For example, any employment contracts, non-compete agreements, and or non-disclosure agreements. A severance agreement and release may reference prior agreements you have signed while employed. Bring any handbooks, policies, or documents that discuss vacation time or any benefits you may or may not be entitled to under the employer’s polices.
Before meeting with a lawyer draft up a short description of the cast of characters at your job, with names, the basic corporate organization chart. Also draft up a short timeline of events. This information will make the meeting with the lawyer much more efficient.
Bring in any documents you believe are relevant including e-mails. For example if there is a claim of illegal harassment, discrimination or relaiation the lawyer you choose will need an opportunity to see the evidence that forms the basis of the claim. The evidence that an illegal harassment, discrimination or retaliation claim is based on is what forms the basis for the amount of severance pay that may be considered as fair and reasonable.
A copy of your personnel file is helpful for a lawyer who is reviewing a severance package. The performance reviews and any warnings given are factors to consider when calculating the amount of severance pay. One goal of the lawyer you are meeting with is to figure out what leverage there is to convince the employer to offer more money and or better terms in the severance package. The lawyer you meet with will want to know, when you were terminated. Who was in the room? What they told you? What reasons the employer gave for your termination? And what you think the real reasons for your termination were. The answer to these questions will help the lawyer consider if you have a viable claim that can be used to increase the amount of severance pay that is being offered.
If you have any questions about severance pay packages e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org