Consulting with an Employment Lawyer

Severance Agreement Consultation - For EmployeesIf you have been discharged from your job, it’s always a good idea to consult with an employment lawyer to review the facts and any agreement you have been asked to sign.

I will thoroughly review all of the facts and circumstances related to your termination or impending separation. This review will not be limited to just looking over the agreement your employer expects you to sign.

An Employment Lawyer Who Will Fight for You!

Employment issues are fact-intensive and I will get the facts to help me fight for your rights.

This means I will ask a lot of questions. I will ask your help to provide me with the facts as you understand them and  information (such as emails) related to your employment and termination.

Even during the initial consultation, we may uncover that there was some sort of violation of the law by your employer, such as discrimination, retaliation, or harassment. A full understanding of the facts and circumstances surrounding your termination gives me the tools I need to suggest your best option(s).

Reviewing the Severance Agreement for the Employee’s Benefit

While it is true that a severance agreement will describe the benefits the company plans to give you, the agreement’s main purpose is to persuade you give up your right to sue the company for any claims you may have against it.

agreementNot only would you have more peace of mind knowing that an employment attorney reviewed the agreement and answered your questions, but it’s been my experience that often the terms could be significantly enhanced.

Key Areas to Review in a Severance Agreement Consultation

My consultation will look at how the severance agreement helps you as you look for new employment. I’ll review:

  • The fairness of the amount of severance pay
  • When severance will be paid (lump sum vs. installment payments)
  • Whether the severance pay will stop if you find another job
  • Payment for accrued but unused vacation time
  • Unemployment compensation
  • Assessing any release of claims you are being asked to waive
  • Assessing whether to obtain a mutual release of claims
  • Future employment reference communications
  • Review and assess non-disparagement clauses
  • Assess and advise on noncompete terms.
  • Date of termination: delaying your final day of employment until the first day of the next month will help you extend your health insurance benefits and possibly result in vesting of certain retirement contributions, incentives, etc.

Here are a few industry specific examples of issues that frequently come up:

Business Executive: Nonsolicitation or noncompete agreements may prevent an employee from soliciting or accepting business from the former employer’s customers or competing with the former employer. An employee who agrees to this condition is protecting the employer’s business interests against his or her own. 

Another issue that frequently arises is when a business executive has signed a new or more restrictive noncompete agreement. Under certain circumstances, this may prove helpful to the employee’s negotiations with a former employer. Therefore, even if an employee already has a non-competition agreement as a condition of her continued employment, the new term as part of the Separation Agreement may be more enforceable. Employees should obtain legal advice to assist them in determining whether the severance benefits in the Separation Agreement are worth the obligations therein.

Pharmaceutical Reps: A term (or restriction) that is common with these employees involves limitations on region or scope of competition. I also find that there are often unresolved issues regarding commissions and other form of pay upon separation. For example, if you are a sales person and have an employment agreement prohibiting you from doing any sales in competition with your former employer within a certain area for two years after your employment termination, that employer may have a difficult time enforcing such a broad agreement. However, if you agree to such a term as part of a Separation Agreement where you already knew your employment was terminated and you were signing in exchange for severance payments, it is possible a court might, in that circumstance, enforce the agreement strictly based upon its own terms.

IT Professional: I typically find that confidentiality and trade secret matters are contentious issues when an IT professional is leaving his company. Another overlooked term that is common when IT professionals leave their employer has to do with references. Too often, these IT professionals fail to negotiate their severance agreements properly or are too willing to accept unreasonable terms upon their separation.

Medical Professional – A growing trend in the healthcare industry is to implement physician agreements that are based not on a predetermined salary but instead on productivity. Moreover, I find that common disputes revolve around compensation and bonuses, as well as tail insurance (among other issues). I have the experience necessary to assist departing physicians in negotiating fair severance agreements, or at the very least, understanding them.

If you are facing a decision concerning this issue, please contact our office for a consultation.