Unfortunately, hard work and loyalty no longer guarantee long-term employment. Good employees increasingly endure layoffs and reductions-in-force regardless of their workplace accomplishments. Though employers have the right to reduce their workforces, there are laws that limit the criteria they may consider in deciding whom to layoff.
We negotiate severance agreements
For example, employers cannot consider age, race, gender, disability or pregnancy status. Employers may also be prohibited from considering other criteria that have a “disparate impact” on certain protected classes.
In some layoff situations, employers offer severance packages in exchange for employees waiving their right to sue. These severance agreements are almost always drafted by a company attorney with the sole objective of protecting the company’s rights. It is highly recommended that you consult with an employment lawyer before accepting a severance package.
- Do you have any potential legal claims you could pursue against the company rather than accepting the severance offer?
- Is the amount of the offer commensurate with the merits of your potential legal claims?
- Is the amount of the offer consistent with the industry standard in light of other considerations such as your position and tenure?
- Does the severance agreement protect you from the company giving negative references to prospective employers?
At Van Kampen Law we help our clients answer these questions. We will negotiate directly with the company to enhance your severance package and insert contractual provisions that protect your ability to secure future employment.
Working to “Enhance” Your Severance Pay
Our goal when negotiating severance agreements is straightforward: to maximize the amount of severance pay for the client. Depending on the circumstances, you may have bargaining power to drive up the amount of severance and benefits initially offered by the company–you simply might not be aware of it. We can help you leverage your position to create a more favorable severance agreement.
Different firms use different approaches in severance pay negotiations. Our approach in severance negotiations is not to slam the table or to threaten your former employer. We believe our firm has already established a reputation for aggressiveness that does not require theatrics or bellicose rhetoric. We are sensitive to the fact that it is often not in our client’s best interest to alienate or antagonize their former employer. The company cannot be forced to sign a check for additional severance; it must be persuaded.
To that end, we try to collaborate with defense counsel in a professional, yet frank discussion about the offered severance package and why it is deficient or undervalued in comparison to the merits of our clients’ claims and potential recovery if we prevail at trial. Often times, we know the defense lawyers representing the employer, which also helps facilitate productive discussions.
Despite our best efforts, severance negotiations sometimes fail, and clients may find themselves at a crossroads of taking the current offer or pursuing their legal claims. We help our clients analyze the advantages and disadvantages of litigating their claims so they can make informed decisions. In some situations, the right choice is to walk away from the offered severance package. Employers are generally willing to pay more in settlement discussions after a lawsuit has been filed, as they face the possibility that the recovery at trial may greatly exceed the initial package that was offered.