Are you being offered a severance package after leaving your job in Houston, TX? Severance agreements can be complex and contain requirements that make a big impact on your future. An experienced attorney can review the agreement and negotiate terms that are fair to you.
Leaving a job can be stressful, filling you with uncertainty about your future. Closing out this chapter of your life in a positive way is important for your personal and professional well-being.
What Is a Severance Agreement?
A severance agreement or severance package is an agreement between an employer and an employee who is leaving their position. Whether it is because of layoffs due to budget reasons, downsizing or reorganizing, or a more specific reason related to the employee, a severance agreement outlines the rights and responsibilities of each party with respect to the termination of the employment relationship between them.
What Does a Severance Agreement Cover?
Severance pay is compensation or benefits in addition to your regular wage. There is no specific right to a severance agreement in Texas. And there is no specific amount for severance pay.
However, if your initial employment agreement addressed severance pay, then that provision is enforceable under the Texas Payday Law. A lawyer will review your employment circumstances to see if a prior agreement covers your severance.
A severance agreement will outline what the employer will pay to the employee upon termination. In exchange, the agreement typically requires that the employee agree not to sue the employer. Additionally, the agreement will almost always contain some type of confidentiality clause. It may also contain a provision that prevents the employee from working for a competitor of the employer for a period of time.
How Can a Lawyer Help With a Severance Agreement?
Any agreement is only valid if it is enforceable. Improper agreements are signed all the time – if the terms are not written properly, you won’t be able to enforce the agreement if the other side isn’t holding up their end of the bargain. A reputable attorney will make sure your agreement is fair and enforceable.
Carefully Review the Agreement
The first step that your lawyer will do is thoroughly analyze the agreement. You may be giving up significant rights and not receiving enough in return. An attorney will look carefully at the severance to make sure that it is fair considering the type of position you held, the industry and company for which you worked, and the length of your service at the company.
Negotiate Terms That Are Fair to You
Some issues that a lawyer can help you negotiate in a severance agreement include:
- The timing of severance payments (lump sum or over time)
- Help in landing a new job
- Payment for your unused vacation time, sick leave, or personal time off
- What happens to your health benefits
- Whether there is a non-compete agreement
- What happens to your retirement plan
- Whether you’re entitled to your bonus
- Timing to accept the agreement
Leaving a job you’ve had for a long time can be emotional. It can be easy to rush through the final details. An attorney protects your interests and spends time getting to know you to understand what is most important to you.
Make Sure the Agreement Isn’t Overly Strict
Your lawyer will also make sure that provisions regarding confidentiality, non-compete, or non-disparagement are not overly burdensome.
Depending on your industry, a short non-compete clause might be acceptable. However, you don’t want to agree to something so restrictive that it prevents you from obtaining meaningful employment in the future.
Evaluate Your Potential Legal Claims
Often, a severance will include an agreement not to sue your employer. This could be a valuable term for your employer, depending on your employment history. Sometimes employees are let go after a wave of mismanagement and questionable employment practices.
Hiring an attorney can help you determine whether you have a valid claim for wrongdoing on the part of your employer.
Some issues that could give rise to a claim against your employer include:
- Delay in the payment of your wages
- Failure to pay overtime
- Discrimination or harassment
- Wage and hour law violations
- Violation of health and safety regulations
An attorney will conduct a thorough investigation of your employment history. They can outline potential legal claims against the employer. Sometimes, it might make sense to forego the severance and pursue a claim against your employer. Or, detailing the potential claims in a letter can give you more leverage in getting favorable terms in your severance agreement.
If you are faced with signing a severance agreement, it is usually well worth your time to consult with an attorney who can review the terms and ensure that the agreement is fair and in your best interest.