Going away parties can be the source of happy memories. Perhaps you still have the card signed by your coworkers on your last day at your previous job before you left to move to Houston. Perhaps your parents got a proper send-off from their coworkers when they retired, and they still have some of the presents they received at their retirement parties. It is not so pleasant, however, when you are not the one who made the decision to end the employment relationship. When your employer decides your time at your workplace is up, the employer might still send the employee away with some money or other perks. This is cold comfort, though, compared to remaining employed. It is legal for employers to offer severance pay to workers upon the termination of the employment relationship. Whether the employee has a legal obligation to accept this offer varies from one case to another. The Houston severance lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you get a fair severance package and can help you resolve disputes with your employer related to severance pay and termination of employment.
How Can You Tell if You Will Get Severance Pay?
From an employee’s perspective, the worst way an employment relationship can end is with the employer dismissing the employee and abruptly cutting off all pay and benefits. This should only happen if the reason for terminating the employment relationship is misconduct on the part of the employee, in other words, if the employee gets fired for a justifiable reason. In most other circumstances, it is possible and reasonable for the employer to provide for the employee for a certain period of time after the employment relationship ends.
When these end-of-service provisions are part of an employment contract, the parties usually think of it and refer to it as an end-of-service bonus. The package may include a lump sum of money, equivalent to a month or more of the employee’s salary. It may also include relocation expenses and a continuation of health insurance benefits for several months or until the end of the calendar year; your employer may even let you keep your work-issued computer in exchange for a nominal sum of money and for deleting all work-related files from the device. If your employer offers these end-of-service benefits in your employment contract, you should expect that your employer will make good on these promises at the end of the contract period. If you think that the end-of-service benefits will not be enough to support you during the transition to your next job (this may be the case if getting a new job means relocating your entire family and changing your visa status), then the time to negotiate about it is before you sign the employment contract instead of after you have already started working. If your employer fails to pay you the end-of-service benefits specified in the contract after you have fulfilled all of your contractual obligations, you have the right to sue your employer for breach of contract.
Another situation where employers offer severance pay is when the employer must unexpectedly terminate the employment relationship, in other words, when laying off employees. This usually happens in the context of a corporate merger or when the company must reduce the number of its employees due to financial hardships.
How Much Severance Pay Do Employees Get?
If the employment relationship is ending because of layoffs at your company, then the employer usually approaches employees who are losing their jobs with a separation agreement. If the employee signs the separation agreement, he or she accepts and receives the severance package that the employer is offering. The severance package usually includes several months of monthly paychecks equivalent to the employee’s salary, plus a continuation of health insurance benefits until the end of the calendar year. The idea is that the employee can find another job with health insurance benefits or apply for marketplace health insurance by the end of the year.
Is Severance Pay a Bonus, or is it a Bribe to Shut You Up?
When an employer tells you that they are letting you go and offers you money to keep you going until you can find another job, it is easy to wonder whether the severance package is a thank-you gift or a polite way of telling you to get lost. It is also easy to wonder whether the employer’s real reason for letting you go is that it is a casualty of a larger economic downturn or whether your employer singled you out for termination of employment, but it is not always so easy to tell. It is easier to get to the bottom of the situation and to decide what to do next after discussing matters in detail with a Houston employment lawyer.
For example, if many employees at your organization are receiving separation agreements and severance offers, your employer is probably telling the truth about widespread corporate downsizing. If you are the only one your employer is letting go, there could be a different reason. It could be retaliation if you recently reported misconduct at your workplace or complained about mistreatment by your employer. If all of the employees being let go have a certain protected characteristic (such as race, gender, or age) in common, then it could be a case of employment discrimination. If you accept the severance package, you waive the right to sue for discrimination or wrongful termination of employment, so you should review the separation agreement before you decide whether to sign.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Severance Offers
The Houston employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP, can help you review a separation agreement from your employer and decide whether to accept the severance package your employer is offering or whether to negotiate for more money. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Houston, Texas, to set up a consultation.