Severance agreements come in three basic flavors – voluntary, involuntary and group.
If you are still employed and are currently in the early stages of negotiation, it may be a very good time to reach out to a lawyer. Your employer may be signaling that you have been a valued executive of the company, but due to a change in strategic direction, they want to mutually separate. You may be ready to move on as well. An experienced employment attorney can represent you in a professional and classy manner that will help reduce the anxiety of an already stressful situation. Your attorney can help negotiate the timing, announcements, monetary and non-monetary considerations, such as non-mutual disparagement, reference-ability, non-competes, among others.
If you have a severance agreement in your hand that was not of your initiation, you may have already been asked or escorted off the premise. This can be an extremely disheartening time. We have seen employers handle this transition with varying degrees of care and a callousness. Often, employers will put a short time limit on you to sign the agreement. Others will even try to coerce you to sign during the termination conversation. This is a critical time for you understand your legal rights and the impact of what your former employer is asking you to agree. Some of the terms of the severance agreement may adversely affect your future employment. Based on your particular situation, an experienced employment attorney be able to improve the conditions of your departure.
You employer may offer you a severance agreement as part of a RIF (reduction in force), or what is more commonly known as layoffs. While employers in North Carolina are legally allowed to reduce their staff levels, there are some important legal limitations that they must also follow. Again, employers vary in the level of decency in which they conduct these reductions. You may hear that the agreement is “standard” and can not be changed or improved. It may be worth your time to have a legal review to assess the fairness of the agreement, based on our knowledge of the market and your particular situation to see if an improvement outcome can be negotiated.