Are you being let go from your job? If so, consider negotiating a severance agreement with your employer. Conversely, your employer may have already presented you with one to sign. You should only enter a severance agreement if you first seek legal counsel to help you understand your rights and obligations under the arrangement.
A Tallahassee severance agreement lawyer from Cruz Law Firm, P.A., can review the terms of a proposed contract, negotiate on your behalf to secure favorable terms, or advocate for your rights if your employer breaches your severance agreement.
Over the decade we’ve been in practice, our firm has helped clients through some of the most complicated employment matters. Our lawyers are known for their deep knowledge of employment and labor law, speaking across Florida on legal and litigation issues concerning employment. Moreover, over our career we have taken more than 100 cases to trial, giving us considerable experience with the state and federal courts in the Tallahassee area. Let us offer you the confidence you need as you work out a severance agreement with your employer or pursue your rights under a contract you’ve already signed.
Contact Cruz Law today for an initial case review with a Tallahassee severance agreement attorney about how we can help your matter. We will review the intricacies of employment law with you so that you can make the best possible decision for your interests. From there, we could negotiate a severance agreement with your employer or pursue legal claims on your behalf if your employer breaches your severance agreement.
What Is a Severance Agreement?
A severance agreement is a contract between an employer and a departing worker that establishes each party’s post-termination rights and obligations. Severance agreements should resolve and settle all claims between an employer and an employee. The employee typically receives compensation, including owed wages/salary, tips, bonuses, commissions, or unused PTO, and additional payments equal to several weeks or months of wages. In exchange, the employee agrees to certain obligations, such as not working for a competitor or hiring away other employees. The employee and employer may agree to settle legal claims against one another. They may also reach an agreement not to disparage one another publicly, such as the employee refraining from making negative comments about the employer and the employer not providing negative reviews of the employee when they apply for new jobs.
What Are Common Problems with a Severance Package?
Common problems that give rise to issues with severance agreements include:
As a contract, a severance agreement can only be valid if secured by consideration or an exchange of value. A severance agreement might be invalid if the employer imposed new obligations on an employee without providing financial compensation or something else of value. Many severance agreements end up overturned because the employee must sign the agreement to secure the release of their final paycheck, which they are already entitled to under wage and hour laws.
Noncompliance with legal restrictions on severance agreements
Older employees are legally entitled to certain protections in negotiating severance agreements that waive their right to file an age discrimination claim. Agreements that don’t meet these conditions may later be invalidated.
Failure to explain the terms of the agreement
Employees may seek to invalidate a settlement agreement due to the employer’s failure to make certain important terms conspicuous, such as arbitration/alternative dispute resolution clauses.
Unfairness to the employee
Finally, some severance agreements get overturned on the grounds of unfairness. Examples of unfairness include legal releases or non-disparagement clauses only in favor of the employer, or circumstances in which the employer pressures the employee to sign the agreement without allowing the employee to review it or consult with an attorney.
What Does a Severance Agreement Typically Include?
Depending on the circumstances of an employee’s departure, a severance agreement may cover terms such as:
- An explanation of the reasons for the employee’s leaving, such as whether the employee is part of a layoff
- Financial payments to the employee, including payment of outstanding wages/salary, bonuses, and commissions, payment for unused PTO, and additional compensation commonly called “severance pay” or “garden leave”
- Releases of legal claims by the employee, including discrimination, retaliation, and wage-and-hour claims
- Releases of legal claims by the employer, including breach of contract or intellectual property misappropriation
- Restrictive covenants the employee must abide by, such as non-compete, nondisclosure, non-solicitation, or no-hire/anti-poaching agreements
- Resolving ownership of intellectual property created by the employee during the term of their employment
- Non-disparagement agreements, which may be mutual or only impose an obligation on the employee not to disparage the employer
- The employee’s eligibility for rehire by the employer or its affiliates
- Alternative dispute resolution clauses that require arbitration of disputes between employer or employee or waive the employee’s right to file a class action lawsuit
- Ancillary matters, such as procedures for the return of company equipment or vehicles in the employee’s possession
Are There Laws in Florida Over Severance?
Florida law generally does not regulate severance agreements between employers and employees. Severance agreements are typically considered a private contractual matter between employer and employee. However, Florida Statutes 215.425 states that government employees who have an employment contract that requires severance pay cannot receive more than 20 weeks of compensation as severance, while government employees who are not contractually entitled to severance cannot receive more than six weeks of compensation as severance.
Workers over the age of 40 have certain protections under federal law regarding severance agreements. The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, which amended the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, protects older workers from being pressured into signing severance agreements that waive their right to file age discrimination claims against their employer. Employers that conduct mass layoffs must also identify the terminated workers and provide a description of their jobs and the ages of other employees performing those jobs.
Can You Sue for Not Getting Severance Pay?
You may have a legal claim to severance pay under certain circumstances. For example, you can file a breach of contract lawsuit against your employer if they fail to pay severance as your employment contract requires. You can also file a lawsuit to recover payment from the last pay period you worked, outstanding bonuses or commissions, or to recover unpaid PTO if you are entitled to payment under the terms of your employment.
You may also have a lawsuit against your employer if you sign a severance agreement and do not receive the full payment required under the contract.
How to Protect Your Rights and Interests in a Severance Agreement
You can take the following steps to protect yourself when negotiating a severance agreement with your employer:
- Review your employment contracts and employee handbook to determine your and your employer’s respective legal obligations and what severance pay you may be entitled to.
- Keep copies of all correspondence during negotiations of your resignation/termination and your severance agreement.
- If being terminated as part of a mass layoff, ask your employer for demographic data of workers being laid off.
- Ask for clarification of any terms in a proposed severance agreement that you do not understand.
- Talk to a Tallahassee severance agreement lawyer from Cruz Law. We can help negotiate the terms of your agreement with your employer or explain the terms of an agreement you previously signed with your former employer.
Why You Should Consult an Attorney Before Signing a Severance Agreement
Ideally, you should consult a severance lawyer before signing a severance agreement. A severance agreement lawyer can help protect your interests in your settlement agreement by:
- Reviewing the term of a proposed severance agreement and explaining them in plain English, so you understand your and your employer’s respective obligations.
- Negotiate with your employer on your behalf to secure fair and favorable terms for you.
- Confirming that any severance agreement you sign is fair and enforceable, including being supported by valid considerations such as additional severance pay.
- Helping you comply with your obligations under the terms of your severance, such as returning company property.
- Aggressively pursuing compensation and other legal relief on your behalf if your employer breaches its obligations in the settlement, such as not paying you the full amounts you are owed or disparaging you to prospective employers.
If you could not secure legal counsel before signing your severance agreement, an experienced employment attorney can review your arrangement and determine if it is binding.
Contact Our Tallahassee Severance Agreement Law Firm Today
Leaving your job can be stressful, but you don’t have to negotiate the end of your employment by yourself. Your employer has lawyers looking out for its interests. You can level the playing field by getting the legal help you need to protect your rights and interests.
At Cruz Law, we want to help you understand your legal options for severance or your rights and obligations under your existing severance agreement with your employer. Our attorneys serve Florida workers throughout Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and the Florida Panhandle.
Contact Cruz Law today for a confidential consultation with our Tallahassee severance agreement law firm. We look forward to reviewing your situation and discussing it with you in detail.