With the unemployment rate the highest it’s been in decades, I have some information that’ll come in handy if you find yourself laid-off: getting the severance package you deserve. Jason Stern is an attorney in New York who specializes in severance negotiation. He says that workers are often afraid that an initial severance offer will be withdrawn if they attempt to negotiate – but this almost certainly won’t happen. Why? Because employers don’t offer severance out of kindness. They do it in exchange for an employee’s signature on an agreement not to sue for wrongful termination. Your signature has value to the company. So, if you’re let go, follow Stern’s guidelines. We found them in the Bottom Line Personal.
- For starters: Don’t sign right away. Tell human resources that you need to review your package with a lawyer. If they’re bothered by this, scan the final paragraphs of the agreement. There’s usually a clause near the end stating that the company encouraged you to consult an attorney. Point this out, and if your employer encourages you to resign rather than get laid off, politely decline. Unless you’re offered a considerably improved severance package for doing so. Resigning can deprive you of your right to collect unemployment benefits, or to sue for wrongful termination.
- Know your worth. Stern says many companies try to get away with offering only one or two weeks’ severance for every year you’ve been there, but it’s reasonable to request one month of severance pay for each year of employment. Also, ask to be paid for unused vacation days. Some states even require companies to do this. For example, California has a “no-use-it-or-lose it” rule, which means that if you’ve accrued vacation time, you must either be allowed to use it, or have it paid out at termination.
- Have other terminated employees been offered more than you? Stern says this isn’t the time to be shy about talking money with your peers. If others got more, you probably can, too.
For more tips, head to SeveranceAttorney.com.