Common Severance-Related Issues That Require Legal Counsel

Getting laid off from your job can be a devastating and frustrating experience. You’ve spent countless hours working hard for your employer, and now you face an uncertain future.

If this situation applies to you, your employer may offer you a severance agreement. If you get offered a severance agreement, it can be tempting to sign the paperwork and take what was offered. However, there are many instances in which you should seek legal counsel about severance before you accept an agreement. 

Always meet with an attorney before signing an agreement because issues can present themselves and keep you from getting the full compensation you deserve. Keep reading to discover how a severance attorney can help you navigate severance-related specific problems.

What Is a Severance Agreement?

If you’ve never faced a layoff in the past, you may be unfamiliar with severance agreements. A severance agreement is a legal document that lays out the responsibilities of the employee and employer as well as all the benefits offered by the company to the employee. 

At its core, a severance agreement details that the employee was not wrongfully let go and agrees with the terms they were let go under. The document will outline how the employee’s insurance, pay, and benefits will change once the exit is made and that the employee will not file a lawsuit against the employer after the document is signed. 

If you agree to sign the severance document, employers usually provide severance pay in return. Severance pay is supposed to help ease the transition to unemployment by providing a salary for a particular duration. This pay is meant to help ease tensions and indicates that the employer cares about the employee’s livelihood. 

When Should You Seek Legal Counsel Regarding Severance?

Even if a severance agreement is created with the best intentions in mind, certain issues can still arise. If you believe that your layoff is actually a sign of wrongful termination, you should meet with an attorney right away. Additionally, if you feel unclear about benefits or clauses in the agreement, or if you did not receive the compensation you were promised, seek counsel from an empathetic severance agreement attorney

1. You Have Potential Claims Against Your Employer

The primary purpose of severance agreements is for employees to agree that they were not wrongfully terminated and that they will not file a lawsuit against the company. However, if you have even a slight hunch that you were wrongfully terminated, you should not sign the severance agreement until after meeting with an attorney. 

Some of the main grounds for a wrongful termination claim include:

  • Discrimination
  • Breach of contract
  • Retaliation
  • Disability
  • Infringement of public policy
  • Defamation

One of the most common causes of wrongful termination is discrimination in the workplace. If you believe you were fired from your job because of any of the following reasons, you may be able to file a claim against your employer:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Nationality
  • Disability
  • Religion
  • Ethnicity
  • Sexual orientation
  • Pregnancy
  • Political association

2. You’re Unclear About What Benefits You’re Entitled To

Even if you don’t believe that your layoff was a case of wrongful termination, you may still be confused about what a severance agreement entails. It can be hard to know if the pay and benefits outlined in your contract are fair or if you deserve more. 

Your severance agreement should clearly explain the following details:

  • Reason for Separation: Why the employee is being fired or asked to resign.
  • Timeline: When the employee was hired, the date of termination, and how long the employee has to accept or reject the severance agreement.
  • Pay: The percentage of the employee’s salary paid in installments or a lump sum.
  • Paid Time Off: Compensation for unused vacation and sick time.
  • Health Insurance: Continuing health coverage for up to a year and a half after termination according to the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).
  • Career Placement: Any outplacement assistance and career coaching to help the employee find a new job.

If the severance agreement you were given does not cover all of these areas, or if you feel like you deserve more than what was offered to you in the agreement based on your work history, seek legal counsel right away before time runs out. Typically, you have 21 days to accept or reject a severance agreement. A skilled severance attorney will help you negotiate terms so that you receive the total compensation and benefits you deserve.

3. Your Employer Did Not Pay You According to the Agreement

In Minnesota, severance payments and benefits are payable within 30 days after signing an agreement. Keep in mind that your due wages outside of a severance agreement are owed to you within 24 hours of your demand. If you are owed severance payment by your employer but haven’t been paid according to the agreement, seek legal counsel as soon as possible.

If this issue arises in Minnesota, you may file a claim for your benefits in the conciliation court in the county where you worked. Your employer may be guilty of a gross misdemeanor for failure to pay benefits or wage supplements

Navigating claims and court appearances can be overwhelming for many people, so hiring an experienced attorney who will walk you through the process and fight on your behalf is essential. 

Secure the Severance Agreement You Deserve

If you’ve been laid off from your job, you deserve payments and benefits to support you through such a vulnerable time. If you have been offered a severance agreement, but you feel as though you deserve more than what was offered, you think you were wrongfully terminated, or your employer has failed to make payments according to the agreed-upon terms, contact MSB Employment Justice right away.

Our empathetic attorney advocates will help you navigate the severance process and get the compensation you deserve. You don’t have to handle this vulnerable situation alone. Contact us today and get started with a free consultation

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Bree Johnson

After more than a decade in the legal industry and BigLaw firms, attorney and activist Bree Johnson saw an opportunity to do more for employees who are mistreated in the workplace with a career move to representing employees and plaintiffs. See Full Bio

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