A lot of people daydream about leaving their jobs. If you are old enough that you have started receiving correspondence from the AARP, you might be counting the days that you are eligible to retire. Entire sections of the Internet are devoted to fantasies about being wealthy enough not to work, from the financial independence, retire early (FIRE) movement to the anti-work movement to all of those multi-level marketing companies that are willing to take your money if you are foolish enough to believe that selling nutritional supplements out of your garage and encouraging others to do the same is an adequate substitute for employment. If it is your employer who ends the employment relationship, though, then not having a job is not so nice.
If you do not have an employment contract that guarantees your employment until a certain date, then your employer has the right to fire you for almost any reason; it is always illegal to fire an employee for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons, regardless of whether the employee has a contract. When employers can no longer afford to keep longtime employees on the payroll, they sometimes offer a separation agreement. Sometimes, though, separation agreements are not as innocent as they seem. If your employer has offered you a separation agreement, the San Francisco separation agreements lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you decide whether or not to sign.
The Various Ways That Employment Relationships Can End in San Francisco
Employees who are under contract are the lucky few. Most employees in California, as in most other states, are employed on an at-will basis. In an at-will employment relationship, the employee is free to quit at any time. Giving two weeks’ notice when you quit is just a matter of etiquette; you are not breaking the law if you ghost your employer and simply stop showing up to work. Even if you walk out in the middle of your shift, your employer is still obligated to pay you for the time that you have worked. An at-will employment relationship also gives the employer the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time and for almost any reason; the employer does not have to prove that the employee engaged in misconduct. Employers can and do fire employees simply because they need to reduce their payroll expenses.
When the employee has signed a contract to work for the employer, then getting out of the employment relationship before the expiration date listed in the contract is more complicated. Many employment contracts include provisions about what the employer or employee must do in order to terminate the contract prematurely. If you bail on your contractual obligations without following these procedures, it is a breach of contract. It is also a breach of contract if your employer fires you before the end of your contract period without giving you the required notice or paying you the required compensation indicated in the contract.
Separation Agreements Can Be a Way of Making the Best of a Bad Situation
Whether or not the employee is under contract, employers sometimes offer separation agreements when they are engaging in layoffs or downsizing. This tends not to happen in jobs where employee turnover is consistently high. Instead, separation agreements occur when employers lay off employees who have been working for the employer for a long time and operate under the expectation of job security, whether or not they signed a contract. Employers may also offer separation agreements when terminating an employment contract early, especially if the contract does not contain specific provisions about early termination.
When an employer and an employee sign a separation agreement, the employee promises not to sue the employer for wrongful termination of employment. The employer offers the employee some compensation pursuant to the separation agreement. This compensation, sometimes known as a severance package, often includes an amount of money equal to several months of the employee’s salary. It also tends to include the continuation of the employee’s employer-provided health insurance. The purpose of the severance package is to give the employee enough money to last until the employee can find another job.
Is it in Your Best Interest to Sign a Separation Agreement if Your Employer Offers One?
A layoff with a severance package sounds like it is a lot better than a layoff without a severance package, but when is a layoff not just a layoff? Does your employer have an ulterior motive for offering you such apparently generous severance pay? Even if you were a C-suite executive with a multimillion-dollar salary, paying you a severance package equal to several months of your pay costs your employer less than what they would have to pay if you sued them for wrongful termination of employment.
You should not sign a separation agreement if you believe that the termination of your employment was a matter of discrimination or retaliation because if you sign, you are waiving your right to sue. For example, if your employer is laying off hundreds of employees because of a corporate merger or a bankruptcy filing, then signing the separation agreement is probably the best choice. If your employer has been treating you unfairly for a long time and is now firing you, but no one else, and calling it a corporate restructuring, then you probably have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. Deciding whether to accept a severance offer or to sue for wrongful termination is not always a simple matter; you should consult a lawyer and weigh the pros and cons. If you decide that you have more to lose by suing your employer than you have to gain, you might shift your strategy to negotiating for a better severance package.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Separation Agreements in San Francisco
The San Francisco employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you if your employer is terminating your employment position and has offered you a separation agreement. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in San Francisco, California, to set up a consultation.