Life sometimes takes unexpected twists and turns. After spending a decade working at your company, you could face a sudden layoff if your company is sold or there’s a downturn in the economy. You may find yourself sitting down with your boss on a Friday morning and him handing you a severance agreement. You may feel uncertain about whether you should sign it right away. Yet, you may not be sure if you have much power to negotiate it either.
What should you do before you agree to a severance package? Here are five tips to keep in mind:
- Review your company handbook to ensure your severance agreement aligns with company policy. For example, many companies offer employees one week of severance pay per years of service. If this type of policy is detailed in your employee handbook, your severance agreement should show you will receive 10 weeks of severance as a 10-year employee.
- Make sure you understand if your severance will include your employer allowing to stay on its health insurance plan for a while or if you will have to get COBRA insurance during your layoff.
- Bring a copy of the severance agreement to a consultation with an employment law attorney. An attorney can ensure your employer has met the legal requirements needed in your severance agreement and help you negotiate your agreement if needed.
- Decide if your employer might be violating federal law by eliminating your position because of your age, gender, race, religion or disability. An attorney can help you determine if you might have a discrimination claim because of your layoff.
- Prepare documentation detailing how you provided value to your company so you are further prepared for your severance negotiations. You may need to show your employer how you consistently met your goals and went over and above your job duties. You may need to show how you saved your company money because of your diligence and problem solving. Having concrete evidence of your performance gives you better bargaining power in your negotiations.
Remember, you may not get everything you ask for in your severance negotiations. Your company may have limits on what it can offer. Yet, you may get some of the concessions you ask for, especially if your employer is nervous you may sue over your employment termination. The only way you will know if you can get a better severance agreement is to ask for one and negotiate your severance terms with the help of an attorney.