Should I sign my Severance Agreement and Release
The answer is and will always be no. It may be tempting to sign a severance agreement and release but you could be living in the moment and not thinking about the long-term consequences in signing the agreement. If severance is offered, make sure an attorney reviews the agreement. You may be giving up rights you have not considered or may be agreeing to something that will cost you more than the amount of severance.
Most severance agreements are offering you chump change for you to give up every right you have ever been granted under state and federal law. More than likely you will not be able to file suit against the employer pursuant to the following laws: Civil Rights Act of 1964, Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. It may be wise to think whether you have any potential claims against the employer? Potential claims may give you leverage to negotiate a severance package and get a better offer. Ask yourself some questions: Am I of a different race, age, sex, national origin, marital status, color, or religion from those who were not terminated for the same reason or offense? If so, you may have a discrimination claim. Was I recently sexually harassed or the victim of other discriminatory harassment based upon race, age, religion, national origin, marital status, color, or disability? You can’t be fired in retaliation for reporting such harassment. Did I recently report, object to, or refuse to participate in discrimination, harassment, or illegal activity? If so, you may be a whistleblower. Did I recently make a worker’s compensation claim? If so, it’s illegal to terminate you for making such a claim, and you also need to make sure you are not giving up your worker’s compensation claim in the agreement. Did I recently take leave due to bereavement, sickness, disability, or serious medical condition of a family member? If so, you may have a Family and Medical Leave Act claim. The award damages of these claims may be more than what you are getting in a severance agreement. As such, you may want to negotiate the terms in the agreement.
The agreement may ask you to refrain from making disparaging or derogatory or false statements about your employer to anyone; refraining from competing with your former employer or soliciting business from its clients or customers; keeping a vast array of information confidential whether you believe it to have been confidential or not. This may be troublesome if you have a conflict with the employer. Will you be able to uphold your end of the bargain? Negotiate tp put a non-disparagement clause in the agreement. You don’t want this employer to be able to say bad things to potential employers or to customers, co-workers or others in the community. If they want non-disparagement to be mutual, to keep you from bad-mouthing them, agree to it. It is worth the peace of mind to know that they will not be making negative comments that keep you from future employment.
It is worthwhile to sit down and determine what resources, services and benefits have been offered to you by your employer during the course of your employment and how leaving the employer and signing the severance agreement will mean to your livelihood. Think about what has happened to you personally and professionally during your employment that may add some value to the severance agreement. It is best to follow up with a lawyer to help you understand the severance agreement and negotiate certain areas that you have value.