When you are applying for a new job, your previous jobs are probably the farthest thing from your mind. When prospective employers ask you questions about your resume during a job interview, the lines about your previous employment are usually not what they ask about; understandably, they are more interested in your career goals and the skills you can bring to your new job, rather than how you acquired those skills. In fact, it would be awkward for a job interviewer to ask you whether you left your previous job on good terms, even though interviewers sometimes ask. Job applications even sometimes include questions about your reasons for leaving your previous jobs. Even if the answers are embarrassing to you, they probably will not be deal breakers for your new prospective employer.
What if you genuinely do not know if you and your previous employer ended your relationship on good terms? Losing your job can be as confusing as the end of a romantic relationship. Was it really no one’s fault, or was there something you could have done differently to preserve the relationship? When severance pay is involved, the end of an employment relationship is truly confusing. As a working adult who has bills to pay, it is natural to think about the severance pay only in financial terms, but what if there are also other factors at play? The Philadelphia severance lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you get a fair severance package or even make the difficult decision not to accept severance pay if the opportunity costs of accepting it are too high.
Is Severance Pay an Unexpected End-of-Service Bonus?
When an employer terminates the employment relationship on their own initiative, the employer sometimes offers the employee a severance package. Severance packages typically include enough money to cover the employee’s salary for several months; the employer might pay this money in a lump sum or simply continue to issue monthly paychecks for several months after the employee’s last day of work for the employer. The severance package usually also continues the employee’s employer-provided health insurance coverage for at least as long as the severance pay lasts.
The workers who are most likely to receive severance pay are salaried employees, as opposed to employees who get paid hourly and are used to having to hustle every day to earn their daily bread. If you have an employment contract, it might indicate the end-of-service pay you will receive at the end of the contract period, but severance pay is something different. Severance pay is when the employer terminates the employment relationship before the end of the contract period and offers more money than the contractually obligated end-of-service compensation. Sometimes employers even offer severance pay when terminating the employment of salaried employees hired on an at-will basis.
Do You Have to Sign Away Your Rights to Get Severance Pay?
To receive a severance package, you must sign a separation agreement, in which you agree not to sue your employer for wrongful termination of employment. Most employees choose to sign the separation agreement and accept the severance pay without hesitation. This is because the separation agreements arrive in the midst of mass layoffs or corporate mergers. In other words, there is so much chaos and uncertainty going on around the employees that they decide that three months’ salary and the need to look for a new job is vastly better than walking away empty-handed after an employer goes out of business or downsizes its workforce due to financial hardships.
Waiving the right to sue your employer for wrongful termination of employment seems like a small price to pay to receive a severance package, unless, of course, the end of the employment relationship really was a case of wrongful termination. If your employer is reducing the number of its employees by half or if it is undergoing massive changes after being bought out by another company, accepting the severance offer is probably your best option. If the layoff is just a convenient way for your employer to get rid of you, however, you should not be so quick to sign. If your employer terminated your position and offered you a separation agreement after you engaged in a protected activity such as requesting a disability accommodation, filing a discrimination complaint, or reporting misconduct at your workplace to regulators, this is employer retaliation. If you notice a pattern about the race or gender of the employees getting severance packages compared to the employees who are keeping their jobs, this is discrimination. In either case, you may have a strong case for a wrongful termination lawsuit, even though you will have to wait longer for the settlement you could get from such a lawsuit than you would for your severance pay.
Discuss the Terms of Your Severance Pay With an Employment Lawyer Before You Accept
Accepting a severance package is usually more practical and more appropriate than suing your employer, unless you have observed clear evidence of discrimination or retaliation. Even if you have decided to accept severance pay, you should still ask an employment lawyer to review the separation agreement with you before you sign it. Your lawyer may be able to help you get more severance pay than the amount that your employer originally offered you in the separation agreement. If your employer offers you a separation agreement and tells you to take it or leave it, in other words, if your employer does not allow you to review the agreement with a lawyer before you sign, this is a red flag. You should insist on your employer allowing you at least 24 hours to read the agreement carefully before signing it.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Severance Packages
The Philadelphia employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you negotiate a fair severance package pursuant to a separation agreement. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to set up a consultation.