Analyzing Severance Agreements

When an employee is terminated, often due to a reduction in force, an employer may offer a severance agreement. While employers are not required to offer severance to employees (unless there is an agreement to do so), it is usually in the company’s interest to get a release.


Because the employee is often giving up important rights when signing a severance agreement, it is important to know your rights. Here are a few things to look for before signing your severance agreement:


1. Severance Pay: There are a few employees that have the benefit of a contractual right to severance. It is important to know if you may be entitled to benefits when you are terminated and to ensure you are receiving all of the benefits you are owed in your contract.


2. Employee Benefits: Severance agreements should fully explain which employee benefits will continue, including health care and COBRA options (if the employer has 20+ employees). If your employer is not offering health benefits, you may be able to negotiate for that benefit after being terminated.


3. Vacation Pay. In Illinois, an employer is required to pay you all unused accrued vacation pay. Even if you do not sign the severance agreement your employer is required to pay you these benefits. Many employers may hide or not tell you that you are owed these rights.


4. References: Many agreements will include disparagement clauses, but not discuss references. By hiring an employment attorney to review your severance agreement, you can negotiate how your references will be handled in the future, as well as what information will be shared with potential employers.


5. Getting More Money. This is the crux of all negotiations. It is important to discuss your situation one-to-one with an employment attorney so they can help evaluate the leverage you may have to get more money from your employment lawyer.


If you ever have any questions or would like to speak with Employment Attorneys at Maduff Law to help protect your rights and ensure you are receiving what is rightfully yours upon separation from employment, be sure to contact us at Maduff Law today!