Understanding severance packages: we hope you don't ever need it, but here's how to equip yourself for some bad news.

Author:Tomkiw, Andrey T.
Position:HOW DO I

You have been a trusted employee for years, perhaps even working your way up to management or the executive team. One day you are called into the conference room for a "meeting" where you and only two others are in the room - a superior or other company executive and a person you have never met, but know to be from the human resources department. You are introduced politely and note the supervisor is doing all the talking; the HR professional is only taking notes. They are pleasant, professional and the meeting is fast paced, but your gut tells you bad news is on the way.


And then you hear those dreaded words: "We've decided you will not be working here anymore." There is no discussion. No debate. And only 15 minutes after the meeting began, you are handed a packet of papers, told to review and sign them within a certain time period in order to receive a severance package and then leave your workplace forever.

Now what? If you should face any circumstance like this unfortunate scenario, there are a number of things you should take into consideration as you contemplate your next steps. Most importantly, remember to put emotion aside. If you are an "at-will" employee, your employer is not required by law to even provide you with a reason for the separation. Instead, take a deep breath and think rationally - about everything related to how you can garner the best severance package possible.

What do I do?

A few important steps should be followed in any severance situation:

1 Understand that a severance agreement is like an insurance policy for the employer. The company is paying you to make sure you will not sue them. They want a permanent separation from you to minimize the likelihood of any future unpleasantries. Once you understand what your former employer has to gain from you signing the agreement, you have taken the first step toward handling the situation.


2 Find a qualified employment attorney to review the documents. Although many attorneys do some employment law work or are highly skilled in litigating employment cases, your best resource is someone who writes severance agreements for employers (and does not have a conflict) and who is not just looking for a plaintiff for his or her next lawsuit. You need advice that best suits your needs.

3 Recognize that litigation may not be the best course of action, but the tacit threat of it can be beneficial. You may be angry and hurt, wanting to...

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