New York Severance Agreements Lawyer

Many employers offer severance packages to terminated employees dismissed through no fault of their own. These packages can include extended insurance benefits and additional wages, either incremental or in a lump sum. The terminated employee will be asked to sign a binding document outlining the dismissal terms, which will also contain a covenant that the employee cannot sue the employer because of the dismissal.

Employers interested in discussing what this document should look like for their business should contact a New York severance agreements lawyer at Sparks Law. Our skilled attorneys can also advise employees who are presented with these documents and advise them on protecting their rights.

Important Information about Severance Agreements

New York is an at-will state, which means employees can be terminated at an employers’ will, even if they did not do something to cause the dismissal. However, employees cannot be fired for discriminatory reasons. If an employee alleges discrimination, they could negotiate for better severance terms or refuse to sign the severance agreement and file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).

The main benefit of a severance agreement for the employer is that the departing employee agrees to release the employer from any legal actions. This promise is given in exchange for the additional wages or benefits the employee will receive at termination. An attorney experienced in New York employment law could help draft suitable severance agreements and advise employees on signing.

Restrictions on Severance Agreements in New York

In 1990, the federal government enacted the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) that places restrictions on what must be included in a severance agreement where the employee waives the right to sue the employer. Some of these rules include:

  • The waiver must be written in language an average person would understand
  • Employees must be advised in writing that they have the right to seek the advice of an attorney before signing the waiver
  • To be legal, both parties must give up something valuable, and in exchange for signing the waiver, the employee must receive something more than what is already owed
  • The waiver in writing must address that it includes an employee’s rights under the Age Discrimination Employment Act
  • Employees must be given a reasonable amount of time to decide whether they will sign the agreement; employees over 40 must be given at least 21 days under the OWBPA
  • If a group of employees is being terminated, the employer must, in writing, define the group, ages, job titles, and the ages of all other employees doing a like job who are not being terminated

It would be easy for an inexperienced person to draft a deficient waiver lacking critical components of OWBPA law. However, this mistake could negate the severance agreement. The courts have allowed terminated employees to keep their severance packages and sue their employers for age discrimination after waiving any claims. Help from a knowledgeable lawyer is crucial to avoid drafting deficient severance contracts.

Employees Should Not Rush to Sign Severance Contracts

A good severance agreement benefits both employers and employees because they both walk away with something of value. Employers who understand what the company is offering them and are happy with it may choose to immediately sign so they can move on.

However, employees who have evidence of discrimination or harassment, or who do not understand the legal language, may want to hold off signing until a local attorney can review the severance agreement. A New York lawyer could negotiate a better severance package with clear evidence of discrimination or harassment or could help a client file a complaint or lawsuit against the employer.

Call a New York Severance Agreements Attorney for Legal Advice

Having to terminate a good employee or being terminated in a cutback is stressful. However, a good severance agreement benefits both parties and helps prevent any future litigation. If you are an employer or employee dealing with layoffs, call Sparks Law today to speak with a New York severance agreements lawyer. We are here to help you protect your rights.