Severance Agreements are sometimes offered when an employee is leaving their job. These are contracts outlining the employee and employer’s rights and responsibilities at the end of an employment relationship. They will state the severance pay the employee will receive in exchange for signing the agreement. The agreement should also specify violations that could lead to the employer withholding or even cancelling that pay. There are some anticipated layoffs in the package delivery industry, which will likely include these agreements.

Under Washington State law, severance pay is considered a gift. Employers are not legally required to offer severance pay to a departing employee. However, if a company has a severance pay policy, then in certain situations that policy can be legally enforced.

Severance agreements usually require an employee to waive potential legal claims against the employer, including discrimination claims. Federal age discrimination regulations give an employee a minimum 21 days to consider signing a severance agreement. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website has additional information about severance and waiver of discrimination claims.

Some severance agreements can reduce unemployment benefits. Generally, a lump sum severance payment will not affect your unemployment benefits. However, if it is structured as a continuation of salary, it may be considered as “pay” by employment security which could affect your benefits. The Employment Security Department’s frequently asked questions page contains some information on what it considers “severance pay” for eligibility purposes.

Before signing a severance agreement, you should consult with an experienced employment law attorney. Your attorney can determine whether you have a valid discrimination claim and might negotiate a more favorable severance agreement for you. An attorney could advise that you not sign the agreement and instead take legal action through the courts. Once you sign the severance agreement you will almost certainly waive your rights to pursue legal action against the employer.

If you’ve been offered a severance agreement or severance package, contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Cooney Law Offices today. We can assist you negotiating proper severance language and possibly a larger severance package. Cooney Law Offices. We can help!