Whether a severance agreement is simply part of leaving your position, or you are seeking a significant package for years of dedicated work, the outcome will be important. It is good to note that there is a difference between severance agreements and severance packages.
A severance, or separation agreement, includes conditions that you must agree to when leaving your employer. They typically include binding written contracts regarding competition or disclosure of information. A severance package refers to your employer's offer of additional benefits or pay beyond standard pay. These two terms are often lumped together into one long and detailed contract provided by your employer.
The agreement will likely contain a number of documents with dense legal language. It is important to have an attorney review your agreement before signing on the dotted line. They may be able to rewrite unfavorable wording and even negotiate a better package. Here are five reasons why hiring an attorney can benefit you when separating from a company.
1. Payment and benefits
If you are currently entitled to a severance payment upon leaving the company, then you do not need to sign an agreement to receive that payment. However, an attorney can help determine if the offer is fair or if negotiations are in order. Money owed for unused vacation time or unreimbursed expenses could also be added to the payment.
Will your employer offer a continuation of benefits such as the company medical plan? This is required under federal COBRA law. An attorney will ensure that you are offered appropriate severance benefits.
Most separation agreements will include a non-disparagement clause. This means that your employer will prohibit you from disparaging them. In return, your lawyer can ask the same of your employer. You can negotiate how references will be handled and what type of information will be shared.
4. Release of claims
Your employer is likely interested in getting a release of all claims against them. Basically the agreement lays out the original terms of employment and negates them. A good attorney can negotiate their request to be a fair one. They can ask that any claims they may have against you be released as well.
5. Restricted information
You are likely bound by some type of restrictive covenant such as a non-compete or non-solicit agreement. They restrict your ability to take workers or business away from the employer. Without a lawyer, your severance agreement could expand restrictions and cause issues down the road. A lawyer can make sure your agreement does not expand them, and they can help limit restrictions whenever possible. They can also help you identify and protect important information you will need to obtain, such as performance reviews.
These are just five examples why you will want a lawyer on your side while signing a separation agreement. Consider contacting an attorney specializing in employment law to review your contract and negotiate with your employer.