Employers in Orange County, like many California counties, offer severance package agreements for reasons that benefit them. Some of these reasons include efforts to downsize and to replace higher salaried workers with younger workers who won’t demand as much money. Another reason employers offer severance package is to proactively try to stop employees from pursuing legitimate employment rights claims.
The release from liability form
Employers who offer severance packages usually offer to pay the worker a week’s salary for every year they worked. They may sound attractive – especially to workers who have been with a company for 20- or 30 years. When employers offer the severance package though, they usually require that the employee sign a release from liability document too. The release from liability form means that the worker forfeits his/her right to file a claim against the employer for any reason.
Workers have many types of claims that employers may be responsible for. These claims include:
- Failure to pay overtime pay and other work benefits that have accrued
- Failure to pay for vacation days the employee earned
- Discrimination claims. Employers cannot fire, fail to promote or fail to provide work advance opportunities based on a person’s race, color, national origin, sex, or religion. Generally, Orange County employers also can’t fail to hire someone based on their age (if over 40), a disability, pregnancy, or sexual orientation.
- Sexual abuse or harassment claims. Workers who are told they will only be promoted if they provide sexual favors can file a sexual harassment claim. When employers touch, assault, or verbally abuse a woman based on her sex, she has the right to file a sexual abuse claim.
- Hostile environment claims. Employers can’t create a hostile work environment where a woman or man feels threatened at work based on their sex or some identity characteristic.
- Wrongful termination. Employers can’t discharge or threaten to discharge someone who asserts a legal right. If a worker files a whistleblower claim or a workers’ compensation claim, the employer can’t say – Sign this severance agreement or I’ll just fire you.
Employee rights often include job reinstatement, back pay and back benefits, punitive damages, statutory damages such as triple damages, and legal fees.
Additional key issues an Orange County lawyer will review
An experienced severance pay lawyer will review the following matters which could affect how much money and what benefits you ultimately receive:
- Health insurance. Employees need to understand what terms their health insurance will continue. Many employers are required to offer COBRA insurance for 18 months. This allows the worker to continue his/her work-based health insurance provided the worker pays the insurance premiums
- The number of benefits. If the employer really wants to legitimately dismiss a worker, the worker can bargain for additional pay. If the dismissal is not legitimate, the worker should consider an employee rights lawsuit.
- Tax Considerations. It may be possible to structure the severance agreement and the payouts to reduce the federal and state income tax liabilities. Severance pay is generally considered income.
Orange County workers should also review with their lawyer whether they can claim both severance pay and unemployment contracts.
Additionally, if the employee has a written employment contract, the lawyer will seek to enforce all the terms of the contract that benefit the employee.
Skilled lawyers also review what happens if the employer goes out of business before all the severance payments have been made and what happens to the employee’s retirement benefits.
Call the skilled Orange County severance package lawyers before signing any documents
Employees often have rights they’re not aware of. These rights include the right to bring actions against the employer for violating any laws or the terms of any contract. The rights also include the right to bargain for a better severance package – especially if the cost to the employer is minimal. To get a thorough review of your severance package, call Stephen Danz & Associates at (877)789-9707 to schedule an appointment. Se Habla Espanol.