Employees should be careful before accepting a severance agreement package. Generally, employers offer a week’s pay for every year the employee was with the company. That’s not a fortune, to begin with. Worse, the employee may be sacrificing rights and forfeiting money. Many employers use severance agreements as a way to entice an employee to forego legitimate legal claims against the employer.
Even when the employee doesn’t have a valid claim, the employee may be able to negotiate a better deal with the help of a skilled employment lawyer. Employers around Los Angeles often offer the severance pay because they’re in a rush to downsize or to sway a higher-paying employee with one they can pay at a starting worker’s salary.
The employer goal – release from liability
Many employers have an ulterior motive when they offer a severance package. They know that an employee has a legitimate claim against them. They then offer the severance package in return for having the employee sign a “release from liability” form. Employees should never sign a release from liability form without consulting a Los Angeles employment lawyer. The lawyer will explain that employees who are essentially being discharged may have federal or state claim against the employer.
Employees may be able to contest a firing if:
- The firing is discriminatory. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal and state laws, employers cannot fire someone due to their race, sex, national origin, color, or religion. They also may not be able to fire them if they are pregnant, disabled, over 40 years of age, or serving in the military.
- The firing is because a worker asserted a legal right. Most whistleblower laws protect workers from retaliation in the form of firing if the worker files a whistleblower claim. Employees cannot be fired for filing a workers’ compensation case or testifying on behalf of another worker.
- The discharge is due to sexual harassment. Women and men can’t be pressured into having sexual relations in order to keep their job.
- The employer created a hostile work environment. Employees have the right to be treated like other employees. Employers who try to punish other workers by withholding opportunities for advancement, who make insulting or lewd comments, or make it unbearable to work – may be required to change their work environment and keep the worker employed.
Employees have many other rights including the right to demand unpaid leave for a newborn or a family illness – if they meet the terms of the Family Medical Leave Act. Employees also have the right to demand the vacation pay and overtime pay that they are due.
Workers who are being pressured to quit or who are being filed may be able to file a claim for:
- Job reinstatement
- Back pay and back benefits
- Punitive damages
- Statutory damages
- Legal fees
Other reasons to consult with an experienced Los Angeles severance contract lawyer
A skilled LA employment lawyer helps workers who are leaving a company to get all they deserve. Good lawyers review the employment contract if there is one. They also explain the current laws that can benefit employees. Some workers may be able to negotiate a better agreement if the employer really wants the worker to leave. Key issues the lawyer will review include:
- Insurance benefits. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (or COBRA) is a federal law that includes provisions for helping employees continue their current employer-based insurance after they leave the company – usually up to 18 months for employers with 20 or more employees.
- Tax benefits. The Los Angeles attorney may be able to structure the agreement so that payments are made in years that are advantageous to the employee
- Unemployment compensation. Workers need to review with their lawyer whether accepting a severance agreement affects their right to unemployment compensation.
The lawyer will also review the possibility that the employer may go out of business before any money or retirement benefits are paid.
Make the call to an experienced Los Angeles severance pay attorney now
Don’t delay. Once you sign the severance agreement and release from liability form, you can’t renegotiate them. At Stephen Danz & Associates, we’ve been fighting for employee rights for more than 40 years. We understand the arguments and strategies employers use to deprive you of your rights and your pay. For help now, call us at (877)789-9707 to make an appointment. Se Habla Espanol.