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February 2014 Archives

Who is eligible for a severance agreement during a layoff?

Hamilton Law - Bucks County PA Attorneys for Severance Benefits

Who is eligible for a severance agreement during a layoff?A layoff is generally a controlled involuntary separation of a group of employees from the company. Not all layoffs involve payment of separation benefits or severance packages but most large corporations will offer some form of “hand raiser” benefits that will be accompanied by financial incentives for volunteering to leave the company. Once the employees accepting voluntary terminations have been identified, a company needing to further reduce its workforce will then begin to identify employees whose jobs can be consolidated or eliminated to determine the pool of employees subject to layoff.Not all such layoffs involve severance benefits and your only recourse may be to file for unemployment benefits. The size and relative financial health of the company will largely determine whether you will receive a severance payment. There may also be instances where the company’s ERISA plan dictates what benefits are to be received in a layoff. When you are informed that you are subject to a layoff, you should contact an attorney to discuss your options and to review the severance agreement presented to ensure that you are being protected.

Am I entitled to a severance agreement?

Am I entitled to a severance agreement?There is no legal requirement that you receive any form of severance when you are terminated from your job. That being said, many employers will offer a severance package. This package comes in the form of a give and take-they will give you a severance payment in exchange for taking away any and all claims that you may have against the company.The only time when you have a guarantee of a severance payment is when you have an employment agreement, usually signed at the start of employment, which clearly spells out the circumstances under which a severance payment will be made and the exact amount of severance. Also be aware that your application for unemployment benefits will require that you disclose any amounts received from your employer paid as wages and that this may affect the amount of jobless benefits that you may receive from your state. You may, however, be able to negotiate a severance package from your employer, and this largely depends on the nature of claims that they wish to silence. You should contact an attorney to discuss the facts and circumstances of your employment and separation therefrom to evaluate whether you are able to negotiate a severance payment from your former employer.

My co-worker is making inappropriate comments at work-is that harassment?

It certainly may be harassment but not all harassment is equal, or actionable. This means that your legal action will depend on the specific details of the comments being made. Comments about your clothing, appearance, body etc. being made by an employee of the opposite gender that make you uncomfortable are actionable and should be brought to HR’s attention. Similarly, crude or dirty jokes or emails or photographs being posted or passed around at work should also be brought to HR’s attention. It is very important that you review your company’s employee handbook to determine whom to bring this complaint to and the exact procedure for making the complaint. You should also be detailed and specific in your complaint to allow HR enough information to do its job. More importantly, let HR know about how you are being treated even if you don’t intend to sue or take any legal action.

Who Crafts a Severance Agreement?

Without exception, it is always your employer’s lawyer who prepares the severance agreement. That means that it is designed to achieve all of the company’s objectives, i.e. to get you to release any and all claims that you might have against your former employer in exchange for the least amount of money possible. In fact, the largest portion of the 7-10 page agreement is most likely to be your detailed release and waiver of claims with no “take-backs” or “do-overs” permitted. Just like the HR department is not there to protect you from the company, neither will this agreement. Hence, it is imperative that you have your own attorney review this agreement to ensure that it protects your interests as well. Be aware that there is usually a time limit within which the agreement needs to be negotiated and resolved so don’t wait too long to contact an attorney.

Can I be fired for looking for another job while employed?

If you are an at will employee, as most are, then, yes, you could be fired for looking for another job. As an at will employee, an employer can fire you for no reason or any reason as long as it is not a discriminatory reason. Your employer may perceive the fact that you are looking for another job as an indication that you are unhappy, unfocused and not loyal to the company. These perceptions, without other facts explaining why you are looking for another job, are sufficient grounds for your termination. You should be particularly careful about accessing job search websites at work, even if its on your lunch hour, as those sites and searches can be viewed by your employer and may be saved on the company’s servers.

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