Do not sign a severance agreement until you have consulted an employment lawyer; if you do, you will release all your employment law claims. An employment attorney will help you understand all the terms. Severance agreements written by employers usually contain many terms that protect your employer, but they are not written to help or protect you. Remember, these are the people who just terminated your employment. Rest assured that if they ask you to sign something, it’s for their benefit, not yours.
A “release” or “waiver” is a term in a severance agreement where the employee waives her right to contest the termination and sue the employer for discrimination, retaliation, harassment or wrongful termination. A release pardons the employer for its past misconduct. When you sign a release, you give up valuable rights.
Settlements and releases are not uncommon when an employer and employee try to reach a negotiated resolution of their disputes, but you should be very suspicious of a release or settlement agreement that your employer insists you sign immediately, without having it reviewed by an employment lawyer. An employment lawyer will need some time to help you determine whether you have an employment law claim that you do not want to give up. Don’t be afraid to ask for a week or two weeks to consider and review the release, and remember, you should contact an employment lawyer for counsel and advice immediately. Our Firm has decades of experience helping employees understand severance agreements and negotiating with employers for more severance pay. We also can help identify and pursue employment claims that may be far more valuable to you than the employer’s severance offer.