In an unpredictable job market, your career path can take an unexpected turn any time and you might find yourself facing the prospect of parting ways with your employer. As your employment relationship comes to an end, your employer might ask you to sign a severance agreement – outlining the terms and conditions of your separation from the organization.
While severance agreements might seem straightforward at first glance, the devil often lies in the details. They are legal documents that can significantly impact your rights, benefits, and professional endeavors in the future. Many employees tend to underestimate the complexities of these agreements and end up jeopardizing their legal rights as a result. Therefore, before putting pen to paper, you need to consult with a seasoned and reliable New York severance agreement lawyer.
At Levine & Blit, we know how employers in New York – to protect their interests – make their employees sign severance agreements with unfavorable and unreasonable terms and conditions. If you have been asked to sign a severance agreement by your employer, we can review it and determine whether it’s fair, compliant with state and federal laws, and make sure it doesn’t infringe upon your rights in any way. Call us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our seasoned New York severance agreement lawyers.
What is a Severance Agreement?
A severance agreement – also known as a termination agreement or separation agreement – is a legally enforceable contract between you and your employer that specifies the terms and conditions under which your employment relationship will end.
Key Components of a New York Severance Agreement
The most important component of a severance agreement is severance pay, which is also referred to as severance package, separation package, or separation payment. It’s a form of financial compensation provided to you by your employer at the end of your employment relationship.
The purpose of severance payment is to provide you with the financial assistance you need following your job loss. Severance pay can be offered as a one-time lump sum payment or as weekly or monthly payments over some time.
Severance pay is generally calculated based on several factors including:
Length of Service
Your length of employment with the company is one of the most important factors that will be taken into account in your severance pay calculations. The longer your period of employment, the higher your severance pay will be.
Position and Salary
Your position and salary level might also influence the severance pay amount. Generally, high-ranking, highly-paid employees are offered substantial severance benefits by their employers.
Many employers in New York have established policies outlining the terms of severance pay for their employees. Depending on these policies, you might be offered a fixed amount, a formula based on salary and service years, or a severance package calculated based on other criteria.
Depending on the circumstances, you might be able to negotiate the terms of severance pay with your employer, especially if there is no specific contractual or policy provision in place. This negotiation could consider factors such as the circumstances of the termination, your contributions to the company, and your employer’s willingness to offer a competitive severance package.
Other components of a New York severance agreement include:
- Specification of the duration and extent of continued benefits, such as health insurance, during the severance period.
- A release clause that prohibits you from suing your former employer for any claims related to your employment or termination. This provides legal protection for your former employer.
- Confidentiality clauses prevent you from disclosing certain information about the company, its practices, or your termination.
- Non-disparagement clauses prohibit you from making negative statements about your former employer or their representatives.
- Non-compete and non-solicitation clauses restrict you from competing with your former employer or soliciting their clients or employees for a specified period and within a specific geographic area.
- Clauses specifying the return of company-owned property, including laptops, phones, access cards, and other items.
- Agreement on the content of a reference letter that may be provided by your former employer to assist you in future job searches.
- A time frame within which you must consider and sign the agreement. This time frame may also include a period during which you can revoke your acceptance.
- A provision that allows you to seek legal advice before signing the agreement.
Why You Should Consult with Our New York Severance Agreement Lawyers Before You Sign the Agreement
Severance agreements typically favor employers due to the inherent power dynamics in the employer-employee relationship. There are many reasons why you should consult with one of our New York severance agreement lawyers before you sign a severance agreement. These include:
Waiver of Legal Rights
Severance agreements often include a release of claims, requiring you to waive your right to sue your employer for any potential legal issues related to your employment or termination. By hastily accepting the severance pay, you might forfeit the opportunity to pursue legal action, even if there are legitimate claims.
Severance agreements often include non-disparagement clauses, prohibiting the former employee from making negative statements about the employer. This could limit your ability to discuss your experiences or express concerns publicly.
Individual Circumstances Could Be Ignored
Employees have unique circumstances and the terms of a severance agreement should reflect these circumstances. Accepting a standardized agreement without negotiation might not account for factors such as your value to the company, the circumstances surrounding your termination, or potential legal claims.
Future Employment Restrictions
Many severance agreements include non-compete and non-solicitation clauses, which can severely restrict your ability to work in a similar industry or solicit clients or colleagues for a specified period. Accepting these terms could limit future employment opportunities.
Impact on Unemployment Benefits
Depending on the circumstances, accepting a severance package might affect your eligibility for unemployment benefits. Some severance agreements stipulate that the employee cannot collect unemployment benefits, which can have financial consequences.
How Our New York Employment Lawyers Will Negotiate a Higher Severance Package for You
Negotiating a higher severance package with an employer can be a delicate process and a New York employment law attorney can play a crucial role in advocating for your interests. Here is a step-by-step overview of how our New York severance pay attorneys can negotiate a higher severance package for you.
Reviewing the Initial Offer
We will carefully review the terms of the initial severance offer, including the amount of severance pay, benefits continuation, and any other clauses or conditions.
Assessing Your Position
We will assess your specific circumstances, including your length of service, job responsibilities, contributions to the company, and the circumstances surrounding the termination.
Identifying Legal Issues
We will identify any potential legal issues or claims that you may have against your employer. This could include wrongful termination, workplace discrimination, or other employment law violations.
Determining Negotiable Terms
Based on the review, we will identify terms in the severance agreement that may be negotiable. This could include the amount of severance pay, the duration of benefits continuation, non-compete restrictions, and other relevant provisions.
Drafting a Counter-proposal
If needed, we might draft a counter-proposal that outlines the desired changes to the initial severance offer. This may include requesting a higher severance pay amount, a longer period of benefits continuation, or the removal or modification of certain restrictive clauses.
Emphasizing Legal Strengths
If there are potential legal claims, we will strategically emphasize the strengths of these claims to encourage your employer to offer a more favorable severance package to avoid potential litigation.
Once both parties reach a consensus on the revised terms, we will work to finalize the updated severance agreement, ensuring that all negotiated changes are accurately reflected in the document.
How Our New York Severance Pay Attorneys will Negotiate the Terms of Non-Compete, Non-Disclosure, and Non-Disparagement Clauses
Non-compete, non-disclosure, and non-disparagement clauses can severely impact your career opportunities. Depending on the industry and the enforceability of the non-compete clause, it can limit your ability to switch to a similar role or advance your career within the same industry. The presence of these clauses can also impact your negotiating power when considering new employment opportunities and affect the terms of your job offers. It’s one of the most important reasons why legal consultation is so important before signing a severance agreement.
Here is how our New York employment lawyers can negotiate the terms of these clauses and protect your rights and interests.
Reviewing Initial Terms – We will carefully review the non-disclosure clause’s initial terms, identifying any ambiguities or overly broad language.
Assessing Necessity – We will determine the necessity of the non-disclosure clause and whether it’s reasonable in its scope and duration.
Defining Confidential Information – We’ll work to clearly define what constitutes confidential information to avoid ambiguity.
Evaluating Enforceability – We will assess the enforceability of the non-compete clause under New York law, considering factors such as duration, geographic scope, and the nature of your role and responsibilities during your employment.
Narrowing Scope – We will negotiate with your employer to narrow the scope of the non-compete clause and make it more reasonable, so that it does not affect your future employment prospects.
Defining Disparagement – We will clearly define what constitutes disparagement to prevent overly broad restrictions on your ability to express opinions or provide truthful information.
Protecting Employee’s Rights – We will advocate for language that allows you to express your opinions in a truthful manner, especially if it pertains to your employment experience.
Reviewing Restrictions – We will evaluate the restrictions placed on you by your employer regarding solicitation of clients, customers, or other employees.
Modifying Language – We will negotiate to modify and reword the non-solicitation clause to be specific, reasonable, and aligned with your future career opportunities.
Strategies Our New York Severance Payment Attorneys Will Use to Protect Your Rights
- We have extensive knowledge of state and federal employment laws and we will leverage our legal knowledge to strengthen our arguments during the negotiations with your employer.
- We will compare the proposed clauses against industry standards to determine whether they are reasonable and request modifications to align with common practices.
- We will emphasize your position in the company, your contributions, and the value you brought to your company during your employment to negotiate better terms. We’ll also highlight the lack of legitimate business interests to remove or modify overly restrictive terms.
- We will propose alternative terms or compromises that can protect your employer’s interests and at the same time provide you with greater flexibility.
On the whole, we will try to strike a fair balance between your employer’s legitimate business interests and your right to future employment and professional growth.
Our New York Severance Agreement Lawyers Can Safeguard Your Professional Future
If you have been offered a severance agreement by your employer, make sure you talk to the experienced New York employment attorneys at Levine & Blit before you sign it. We can review the contract, negotiate a higher severance package, and get unfavorable and unreasonable terms modified or removed. You can trust us to safeguard your rights, protect your interests, and negotiate the best possible terms for you.
We have a long history of representing employees in their fight against employers and have a track record of obtaining substantial severance packages for our clients. With us on your side, you can be sure of getting what you deserve.
Do not sign away your future without expert guidance. Call us today at 646-461-6838 or get in touch with us online to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a highly-rated New York severance agreement lawyer.