Anyone who lives or works in Rhode Island probably dreads a summons in to the boss’s or human resources office, knowing that the meeting could well end with having to pack up their personals and leave the building unemployed and in desperate need of some income in order to support his or her family.
Unfortunately, being fired or laid off, often without warning, has become a more common practice over the last several decades, and many Rhode Island employees have likely been involuntarily terminated at least once in their careers.
The good news, though, is that many employers now routinely offer severance packages to employees they choose to terminate. While some may do this simply as a gesture of compassion or goodwill, on many occasions, it is a purely pragmatic decision since employees who get fired have a number of legal rights, even if they are “at-will.”
Although an employer is not required to offer a severance package, when an employer does so, it is a good idea for a fired employee to go over the agreement with an experienced Rhode Island employment lawyer. A lawyer can go over exactly what benefits the employee will receive and when and can also ask important questions about what the employee is not getting, such as a favorable recommendation or protection from behind-the-back criticism.
An experienced lawyer will also inform the employee about what rights he or she is trading off in exchange for the severance benefits; for instance, some agreements include covenants not to engage in competitive activity, which could limit an employee’s job prospects.
Finally, at times a lawyer can advocate for an employee for a severance package or, if one is already being offered, for more favorable terms and conditions.