Why You Need to Speak with a San Francisco Employment Lawyer Before Signing a Severance Agreement
Employees should be wary when an employer offers a severance agreement package. A quick payout may seem enticing but generally, employers offer severance packages for one of several reasons:
- The company is downsizing
- They want to replace older more expensive workers with younger less expensive workers
- They’re trying to take advantage of a worker who has a legitimate claim against the employer
In Silicon Valley and across San Francisco, the employment landscape can change quickly, Employees need to speak with skilled severance package lawyers before they head off to a new job or into retirement.
Employer concerns about possible liability
Employers in San Francisco may demand that an employee sign a form releasing the employer from liability before they’ll agree to the severance package payout. Employees who think the severance package is a cover or ruse to fire them should consult with a skilled employment lawyer before signing any documents. The lawyer can explain your rights and review whether the severance package is legitimate or being offered as a way to escape liability.
Employers may have grounds to challenge what is essentially a firing for various reasons. Instead of taking a few weeks’ pays or a few months’ pays, the employee may have much more substantial rights. These rights can include:
- The right to stay in the job
- Compensation for any wage loss or benefit package losses if the employer discharges the worker
- Punitive damages for conduct that is malicious and without any merit
- The legal fees of the employee
- Statutory damages such as treble/triple damages
Employers cannot fire an employee if the firing:
- Violates the terms of any written employment contract the worker signed before starting employment or during employment.
- Is due to discrimination based on sex, race, religion, national origin, or possibly many other factors. Other possible grounds for wrongful firing or failing to promote a worker include pregnancy, a disability, sexual orientation, or military service.
- Involves the assertion of a legal right. This includes filing a whistleblower claim under the False Claims Act or other laws. It includes filing a workers’ compensation claim, serving on a jury, or asserting other legal rights.
- Is due to sexual abuse and harassment. Employers can’t condition work performance on any type of sexual favors. Nor can they abuse a worker because of her/his sex and then fire them because they might or do complain.
- Is because the employer created a hostile environment. Employers can’t use rough tactics to make a worker feel like she or he is unwelcome. Pressures include lewd comments, refusing to give an employee training he/she needs, separating the employee from other workers and other intimidating conduct.
- Is based on the failure of the employer to pay overtime or vacation pay.
Why you should ask a skilled San Francisco severance agreement lawyer to negotiate your contract
Negotiation may help employees get more money and more benefits. A premier San Francisco employment lawyer will use the relevant laws and review any employment contracts or employment policies to help the employee get everything the employee should get. This includes:
- Negotiating the amount of severance pay. If an employee is downsizing or looking to replace you for a younger worker, they may be willing to offer more money than their original offer.
- Insurance. Many workers get their insurance through work. The San Francisco lawyer will explain how long you can stay on the employer’s policy and what your rights are under COBRA. COBRA is a law that generally gives workers the right to stay on an employer policy for a set time – provided they pay the insurance premiums.
- Tax issues. It may make sense to defer some payments to minimize the federal, state, and local taxes
- Unemployment compensation. Workers need to review with their lawyer when they can and when they can’t get both severance pay and unemployment pay.
The lawyer will also review your retirement benefits including their value and when they vest. This is especially important to review because of the danger the employer may go out of business before the retirement benefits are paid.
Contact our San Francisco employee termination lawyers today
Employees should be very careful before signing a severance agreement or release from liability form. They may be forfeiting valuable rights and substantial income and benefits. For help when an employer offers a severance package, call Stephen Danz & Associates at (877) 789-9707 to arrange to speak with a skilled employee rights attorney. Se Habla Espanol.