If employment discrimination is so widespread, then why are there not more employment discrimination lawsuits? Employers use many tactics, some more legal than others, to pressure employees who have been targets of discrimination not to sue. On the one hand, there is old-fashioned intimidation, bullying, and gaslighting, but if you can prove that your employer did these things to stop you from suing them, then this makes your arguments in your lawsuit even stronger. On the other hand, there are the employer’s efforts to sweet talk you out of your decision to sue.
Of course, if you have already decided to sue, then your employer apologizing or telling you how great you are probably will not do much to change your mind. If your employer offers you money not to sue, you might wonder whether the financial benefit of going forward with the lawsuit will be greater than the financial benefit of accepting the settlement your employer is offering you, especially when you consider how much work goes into being a plaintiff in a lawsuit. If an employer offers you a separation agreement when terminating your employment, it is better than if your employer were simply to give you the boot and leave you empty-handed, but you should carefully consider whether you are willing to waive your right to sue. To find out more, contact the Irvine separation agreement lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
What are Separation Agreements in Irvine?
A separation agreement is a written contract signed by the employer and the employee when the employment relationship ends. Employers tend to offer separation agreements when laying off employees because the employer no longer has the financial resources to keep all its employees on the payroll. In these cases, the employer admits that the employee has not done anything wrong that would warrant firing the employee.
When an employee signs a separation agreement, the employee promises not to sue the employer for wrongful termination of employment. In fact, the employee waives the right to sue when they sign the separation agreement. In some instances, the employer offers the employee a severance package as part of the provisions of the separation agreement. The severance package usually includes money, either as a lump sum or an amount equivalent to the employee’s salary, which gets deposited into the employer’s bank account every month for several months. Some severance packages continue to provide employer-subsidized health insurance for the employee until the end of the calendar year.
Separation Agreements and the California Silenced No More Act
Why are you getting a pink slip while most of your coworkers keep their jobs? Is it really just a matter of the employer randomly selecting which employees to lay off, or is it employment discrimination Is it a corporate restructuring, or is it wrongful termination of employment? Is it a generous severance package, or is it hush money? Beware of separation agreements that, in addition to depriving you of your right to file a lawsuit about the termination of your employment, contain non-disclosure clauses that prohibit you from reporting what went wrong between you and your employer.
Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) have kept many instances of employment discrimination from becoming the subject of lawsuits or becoming public knowledge. In 2019, California enacted a law that prohibited employers from presenting employees with NDAs that would stop them from discussing sexual harassment and gender discrimination that they experienced at work. The problem with this law was that it only applies to gender discrimination, and not to discrimination based on other protected characteristics, such as race, age, or disability. Therefore, in 2021, California enacted the Silenced No More Act, which prohibits employers from imposing NDAs on employees to stop them from speaking out about employment discrimination, regardless of the nature of the discrimination.
Should You Sign a Separation Agreement if Your Employer Offers You One?
A lot of employees make the decision to sign a separation agreement in haste, and it is easy to understand why. Imagine that you go to work one day, expecting it to be just like any other workday, but your employer tells you that your job will cease to exist at the end of this month. Suddenly, your mind starts racing with ideas about where to look for a new job and how you will survive financially until you find one. If your employer offers you a separation agreement, offering you three months’ salary, and all you have to do to get it is not to sue, it seems like an easy choice. Three months is at least long enough to line up some gigs or reduce your expenses by moving in with your parents or with a roommate.
In many cases, signing a separation agreement is a good option. Before you sign, though, you should think about whether your layoff constitutes wrongful termination. If you are not sure, you should ask a lawyer about it. Even if your lawyer reaches the conclusion that your employer’s decision to lay you off is not discriminatory or retaliatory, your lawyer can help you negotiate for better terms, such as a more generous severance package or the right to resolve disputes related to the separation agreement in court instead of through mandatory arbitration. It is a red flag if your employer gives you a very short deadline for deciding whether to accept the terms of the separation agreement and sign; this is the equivalent of your fiancé giving you a prenup the day before the wedding. You should not sign the separation agreement unless your employer gives you at least a week to reach a decision about whether to sign it, long enough to review the agreement with an employment lawyer.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Separation Agreements in Irvine
HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP represents employees whose former employers used separation agreements and other sleight of hand tactics to conceal employment discrimination and employer retaliation. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Irvine, California to set up a consultation.