SEVERANCE AGREEMENTS

Losing your job is devastating. Your mind won’t stop asking questions like, “How will I provide for my family?” “How will I afford my mortgage?” and “How am I going to find a new job?” These questions and many more dominate your thoughts. At times, it can seem hopeless. Fortunately, with experienced counsel, there are oftentimes options that may provide you compensation for your termination. Many companies, for a wide variety of reasons, will offer severance agreements. Hollingshead & Dudley’s experienced employment attorneys can help you negotiate the best severance package from your employer.

What is a severance agreement?

There are countless reasons why a company may terminate an employee’s employment. Sometimes, the company is downsizing and has to make tough decisions. In these instances, companies will oftentimes offer severance agreements to ensure that the employee parts ways on reasonably good terms. In other instances, the company is terminating an employee for allegedly violating a company rule or for other claims of misconduct. In these cases, some companies offer a severance package to avoid the risk of litigation. Regardless of the reason a company offers a severance package, the terms are oftentimes negotiable.

What is usually included in a severance agreement?

Because severance packages are simply contracts between the employer and employee, there are literally countless terms, provisions, and nuances that can be included in the agreement. The sky is the limit, and the terms of a severance agreement are only limited by the imaginations of the parties and their willingness to negotiate. Commonly, severance packages may include:

  • A lump sum payment to the employee, or alternatively, continued payments to the employee for a specified period of time as if the employee continued to work for the company;
  • Vesting of pension or other retirement benefits;
  • Continued health insurance for a specified period of time;
  • An agreement by the employer to allow the employee to “resign” in lieu of being terminated;
  • An agreement by the employer not to protest an employee’s attempt to obtain government benefits such as unemployment; and
  • A favorable letter of reference by the employer whereby it states that the employee was an excellent worker and wasn’t let go because of performance.

Again, to the extent the employer is willing to do so, all of the above examples are negotiable.

Why should I hire an attorney to help me?

Companies have teams of experienced negotiators on their side. Always remember, companies are in the business of making money. Thus, their only objective in negotiating your severance package is to give up as little as possible. In many cases, the company is really just trying to buy itself out of potential litigation, and they want to pay as little as possible to do so. An experienced employment attorney can help by explaining the litigation risks to the company and making them re-evaluate the costs associated with failing to reach an agreement with you. At Hollingshead & Dudley, our employment attorneys have litigated hundreds of employment cases. Therefore, our attorneys are perfectly suited to explain the risks of litigation to the other side. Although there are never any guarantees in our business, having an experienced attorney by your side can be extremely valuable in maximizing your severance compensation.

Just as importantly, if your company is offering you a severance agreement because it believes you may have a potential lawsuit against the company, our experienced employment attorneys can help you understand your options. In many cases, the company is simply trying to “buy you off” for pennies on the dollar. Almost every severance agreement requires you to waive your right to file a lawsuit against the company. Therefore, if you sign the agreement, even if you had a great case, your claim will be lost forever. To ensure that your right are protected, if you have been presented with a severance agreement or believe that your company may be willing to offer one if contacted by an attorney, contact our office immediately for a free consultation.

How is Hollingshead & Dudley compensated for negotiating a severance agreement?

Like so many things in life, the answer is…it depends. In many cases, for a reasonable fee, our attorneys will negotiate on your behalf until an agreement is reached. In other cases and, depending on the situation, our attorneys will agree to negotiate your severance agreement on a contingency fee. That is, our firm takes a percentage of the money you are ultimately paid, but the firm only gets paid if we are able to negotiate more money for you than was on the table when you called us. We never take a percentage of any offer that the company made to you before you contacted us because we simply don’t think it would be fair. Since the type of fee the firm charges depends on the specific circumstances of your case, if you have been presented with a severance agreement or believe that your company may be willing to offer one if contacted by an attorney, contact our firm today for a free consultation.

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