Understanding Your Rights In Employment and Separation Agreements

At Levy Ratner, in New York, we help employees in New York and New Jersey understand their rights when it comes to their job.

Whenever your employer asks or demands that you sign a separation agreement, it’s important to understand what you are signing. While there are employers who offer fair termination terms, many overstep and infringe on your rights. Some of these behaviors are illegal.

The Protection You Need

All types of workers can be terminated from their employment. You may be a professional working in a high-rise office building in the heart of New York, or you may work for a chain store. No matter what type of work you do –manual labor to fast food, intellectual and creative or academic and educational – our team is here to offer support and information. We want to be sure you know your rights and are not taken advantage of. By talking to an experienced employment lawyer, you can be sure your rights are protected.

Understanding A Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is an agreement that your employer gives you when your employment is being terminated, or you are “let go” or fired. This can involve a set amount of money or no compensation.

Employers have employees sign separation agreements to protect their business. The employer wants to make sure you do not sue them for unlawful termination.

A separation agreement is sometimes referred to as a severance agreement. Severance pay is generally a part of a separation agreement. Severance pay can be negotiated at the time a worker is hired or terminated and typically includes a benefits package. We advise on the negotiation of these employment agreements as well.

When Not To Sign A Separation Agreement

Most of us want to keep our jobs. Unfortunately, there are situations where employers fire workers who “make noise” about unfair treatment or wrongdoing. If you are experiencing harassment, discrimination or a hostile work environment, it is in your best interest to consult an employment lawyer before signing any agreement. Employment separation agreements can be complex. You are never required to sign this agreement.

Let’s Talk About Your Employee Rights

As experienced employment attorneys, we know when something is not right. We are dedicated to your rights as an employee, no matter where or for whom you work. Call 212-627-8100 or send us your contact information and we will reach out to you.

Our New York City employment attorneys have fought to protect the rights of workers since 1971. We are passionate about justice and equity.

Separation Agreement FAQs

• Are employment separation agreements negotiable?
o An employment separation agreement, or severance agreement, is generally a contract where an employer offers a severance payment or other benefits to an employee who has been terminated by the employer in exchange for the former employee releasing claims against the employer. Unless the termination is governed by a collective bargaining agreement or other employment contract, the terms and conditions of the agreement are negotiable.

• What should an employee look for in a severance agreement?
o Generally, an employee should expect a severance agreement to contain a promise from the employer to provide financial and non-financial benefits to the employee. In exchange for these benefits, the severance agreement will state terms that ask the former employee to waive any legal rights they may have to sue, or otherwise pursue claims, against their former employer.

o If the former employee is over the age of 40, they should also expect to see a clause referencing the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA), which provides that before any person waives any legal claims against an employer:
– the waiver must be clearly written and reasonably understandable,
– the waiver must advise the person to consult with an attorney,
– the employee must be given 21 days to review before being required to sign, AND
– the employee must be given at least 7 days to revoke post-signing of the agreement.

• Am I entitled to severance? What is a normal amount of severance?
o An employer is not required to offer a severance payment and an employee is not required to sign an employment separation or severance agreement. If you are presented with a severance agreement, before you sign, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced employment attorney to review the agreement and discuss your options.