Individuals who are facing termination from employment may be offered a severance package. The terms of this package are contained within a severance agreement. Employees facing termination should pay careful attention to the terms placed within the agreement and be sure that they understand what the terms mean before signing.
Provisions in Severance Agreements
Severance agreements are important to employers and employees. For employers, they provide protection against the employee filing a lawsuit against the employer in the future. For employees, the agreement describes what payment and benefits they will receive. Additionally, provisions can be included to protect against what will be said to future prospective employers about the reasons for the termination. The following are several of the most common issues that are addressed in severance agreements:
- Severance Pay: Payment for the termination is usually offered in some term of weeks (for example, five weeks of pay). It is common for the offer to be based on the length of employment, such as one week of pay for each year of employment.
- Vacation Pay: Employees are entitled to payment for earned, but unused vacation time.
- Non-compete Agreement: If the employer and employee entered into a non-compete agreement, the employer should provide a copy of it to the employee and remind him or her of the terms and conditions. Additionally, changes to the non-compete can be made during severance negotiations and placed in the agreement.
- Returning Equipment: A discussion of what happens to any property of the employer (such as a company phone, laptop, or keycards) that is in the possession of the employee should be included in the agreement. This provision should explain how and by what date the property must be returned.
- Future Jobs: For the terminated employee, it is likely that he or she will be searching for a new job. In that case, it is important for the employee and his or her former employer to agree on how the employer will communicate with prospective employers. If the employee and employer give different reasons for the termination, it can be detrimental in the search for a new job. Additionally, the parties may enter into a non-disparagement clause, which states that neither of them will make disparaging remarks about the other to third parties. A non-disparagement clause should specifically define what cannot be said.
- Claims Waived: This is often the most important provision for employers. Under this provision, the employee relinquishes any right to file a lawsuit against the employer. It should define all of the types of claims and lawsuits that are barred.
- Employees Over 40 Years Old: These types of employees are protected by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA). Workers 40 years of age and older must be given 21 days to review the severance agreement prior to signing it. Further, they have seven days after signing the agreement to change their mind and revoke it.
If you are faced with a severance agreement negotiation, you should contact a skilled Illinois employment law attorney as soon as possible. Our team can help you understand the provisions in severance agreements, which can help you secure benefits and protect your rights. We proudly represent individuals the communities of Crystal Lake, Schaumburg, Palatine, Des Plaines, Rolling Meadows, Buffalo Grove, Barrington, Arlington Heights, Inverness, and Deer Park. We look forward to hearing from you.
About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.