You’ve been working for your company for years. You’ve managed projects, you’ve been promoted and have always put your best work forward for them. Now, they are closing their doors to you. It can come out of nowhere, but it happens: suddenly you're faced with losing your job.
Among the confusion, anger, frustration, stress and loss of benefits comes another key concern: your severance agreement. Odds are you will be offered a severance package should you suddenly lose your job; before you sign anything, though, make sure to contact an attorney who specializes in employment law to make sure you’re getting a fair deal.
Wait to sign
If you are abruptly fired, your former employer will no doubt want to move through the process quickly and efficiently. They will likely present you a severance agreement and expect you to agree without question. Even if your severance appears fair, hold off on signing anything until a lawyer can review what you’re agreeing to.
A common element employees overlook in their severance agreements are “waiver clauses”. These are effectively agreements which bar you from having your severance reviewed or revised by your personal attorney, and also keep you from holding the company legally responsible for any legal claims you may have in the future.
This is significant because should this waiver clause take effect, you will have missed your chance to negotiate a better severance package for yourself. Moreover, if you have experienced any kind of harassment, discrimination or other actionable offenses, you will most likely have locked yourself out of reporting them, as well.
A severance agreement is a kind of contract. Generally, contract offers have a set amount of time they are active and available for. If you suddenly lose your job, give yourself time to digest what happened. Depending on the terms of your severance agreement, you will most likely have some amount of time to consider your options.
Every situation is different, but if you are unhappy with the grounds of your severance package – maybe you will need higher pay due to an ill family member – it may be time to consult with an attorney. A skilled employment attorney will know the best way to negotiate your specific severance agreement, and may be able to fetch you a higher figure or better benefits.
It is a frightening thing to suddenly lose your job. Having a game plan at the ready is one of the most prudent things you can do in this tumultuous economic climate. If you are fired without warning, try to remain calm. Hold off on signing anything too hastily, it could pay off in the end.