The termination of employment can be a turbulent period in an employee’s life. When leaving a job, whether through dismissal or layoffs, the terms of departure can make a significant difference in easing the transition.
In Houston, Texas, severance agreements often play a crucial role in this process, and a proficient Houston severance agreement negotiations lawyer, like those at Armstrong & Associates, can be invaluable in ensuring fairness and compliance.
Understanding Severance Agreements
A severance agreement is a contract between an employer and an employee detailing the benefits and compensation the employee will receive upon termination. These may include unused sick pay, vacation pay, an extension of health care coverage, and even contributions to an employee’s 401k account.
However, Texas law does not mandate severance agreements, and companies may offer them at their discretion. They often require the employee to waive certain rights, including the right to sue the company, making legal consultation essential.
Will I Receive a Severance Agreement?
Receiving a severance agreement depends on various factors, like company policies, employment contracts, and the circumstances of termination. Here’s what you need to know:
- If Your Contract Has Provisions: If your employment contract stipulates severance pay or other benefits, those must be honored.
- At the Company’s Discretion: If no specific provisions exist, offering severance pay is typically at the employer’s discretion, subject to any company policies or practices.
When are Severance Agreements Offered
Severance agreements typically arise in two primary situations:
- End-of-service provisions in an employment contract: Often referred to as an end-of-service bonus, this severance package can include various benefits agreed upon before employment begins. If an employer fails to honor these provisions, the employee has the right to sue for breach of contract.
- Unexpected termination: In corporate mergers or financial hardships leading to layoffs, employers may offer severance packages to affected employees.
- How Much Severance Pay Do Employees Get?
Severance packages can vary widely but usually include several months of salary and continued health insurance benefits. The details depend on the individual’s contract, company policies, and the circumstances of termination and may require careful consideration and understanding.
Is Severance Pay a Bonus or a Bribe?
The nature and intent of a severance package can be complex. While it might be seen as a gesture of goodwill or compensation for unexpected termination, it could also be perceived as a way to prevent potential legal actions, like discrimination or retaliation lawsuits.
Understanding Frequent Questions Regarding Severance Packages
Severance packages can be complex, and employees often have many questions about them. Understanding these agreements’ terms, conditions, and legal implications is essential for anyone facing termination. Below are common questions and concerns related to severance packages.
What Happens to My Health Insurance?
COBRA allows you to continue using your employer’s group health insurance plan for up to 18 months after employment ends. While you may have to cover the premiums, your right to this coverage persists even if it’s not included in the severance agreement.
What is a “Release of Claims”?
This clause requires you to waive legal claims against the company. Care must be taken not to unintentionally waive rights to unpaid wages or other owed amounts. Any legal claim you believe you have, such as wrongful termination, should be reviewed with an attorney before agreeing to the severance.
Does the Severance Agreement Wipe Away All of My Potential Claims?
Certain rights cannot be waived, such as overtime wages under the FLSA and unemployment benefits, ensuring a level of protection for employees. Future claims arising after signing the agreement also generally cannot be waived, maintaining some legal recourse.
Is My Employer Releasing Any Claims Against Me?
Often, severance agreements are one-sided, releasing the company’s claims against you but not vice versa. An employment attorney can ensure that any company claims against you are also removed.
What About My Rights Under My Employment Agreement?
Signing a severance agreement might waive your right to damages from an early termination without cause if you have an employment contract. This complex area requires legal consultation, especially if a dispute arises over the grounds for termination.
Do I Have Special Rights Related to Potential Age Discrimination?
Yes, if you’re 40 or older, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) grants specific protections that must be followed in a severance agreement. These include understandable writing, specific references to the OWBPA, not waiving future claims, and providing proper consultation, consideration, and revocation periods.
What Are My Severance Rights Under a Voluntary Separation Program?
If you’re part of a voluntary separation program and are 40 or older, your employer must provide specific details about the program’s scope, eligibility, and impact on different age groups, ensuring full transparency and adherence to legal requirements in these situations.
What Are My Severance Rights Under a Reduction-in-Force (“RIF”)?
If you’re 40 or older and involved in an involuntary reduction-in-force, your employer must disclose the criteria for inclusion in the RIF, the ages and job titles of those included and excluded, and the selection factors.
Severance packages are legal documents with substantial implications. Understanding their complexities and seeking appropriate legal guidance is imperative to protecting your rights and receiving fair compensation.
The Role Of A Houston Severance Agreement Negotiations Lawyer
Navigating severance agreements can be a delicate and complicated process. Engaging a knowledgeable Houston severance agreement negotiations lawyer can help in several ways:
Evaluating the Terms: A lawyer can assess the severance package, determining if any claims against the company are worth pursuing and whether the terms are fair and in the employee’s best interest.
Negotiating the Agreement: If the proposed severance package is inadequate, an attorney can negotiate with the employer to secure better terms.
Legal Protection: Where age discrimination or other legal issues are involved, an attorney ensures that the employee’s rights are protected. For instance, employees may be given 21 days to decide on a severance package in age discrimination cases, ensuring no pressure tactics are used.
Enforceability and Compliance: A severance agreement must meet specific legal criteria to be enforceable. A lawyer experienced in employment law can review the agreement to ensure it is legally sound.
Navigate Your Severance Agreement with Confidence with Armstrong & Associates
Losing a job can be challenging, but understanding severance agreements can ease the process. With the expertise of a severance agreement negotiations lawyer, Houston employees can confidently navigate these legal matters. Whether negotiating or seeking advice after signing an agreement, it’s never too late to seek assistance with Armstrong & Associates.
With over 30 years of experience in the Houston area, they are tough negotiators, compassionate listeners, and unafraid to take a fight to trial, ensuring that your future is in capable hands. Contact Armstrong & Associates today to take the first step toward securing the agreement you deserve.