When you receive a severance agreement from your job, you should have it reviewed by an employment attorney. There are a number of reasons why this is recommended.
Most employers will require you to give up your rights to ever sue the company again. The severance agreement will likely contain a release or waiver of rights to sue. Sometimes, the release will be too broad and will force you to waive rights that you have relating to vested retirement or workers compensation benefits. An employment attorney can ensure that the release is not too broadly drafted.
If you were terminated from your job under suspicious circumstances, you will want to have an employment attorney review those circumstances. You may have grounds for a lawsuit that could be more valuable than the payment you would receive under the agreement. Once you sign the agreement, there is a strong likelihood you may be waiving your rights to ever file a lawsuit on grounds that include discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and family medical leave retaliation.
Severance agreements can also impose new burdens on an employee. Such obligations include having to give up your own time to participate in the employer’s defense of any lawsuits. Employers can also add new non-competition clauses that could restrict your ability to find a new job or to work for a competitor.
If there is ever a dispute over the severance agreement, you want to make sure that you are not waving your right to proceed in a lawsuit and to have a trial by jury. You also want to make sure that you are able to resolve the issue locally and are not required to travel to a different State. Employers may also try to change which State’s law will govern the severance agreement.
Employers are sometimes sensitive about other employees finding out about severance payments. They sometimes will bind you to confidentiality. You need to me make sure that you know what you can or cannot say about the agreement. If you say the wrong thing, you could be required to return all of the money that you received as severance.
An employment attorney can also help to incorporate favorable contractual provisions. You may be able to control what your former employer says about you in the future.