Employment discrimination is a common occurrence, despite the numerous laws that have been passed to outlaw it and prevent it from happening.
As a worker, you should be appropriately protected by the law and your employer should not be able to take any action that would threaten your livelihood because he is discriminatory or because he has bias against you. In many cases, workers will be laid off or fired, but may want to take some kind of legal action to get paid for their losses. Companies will thus issue severance agreements, which are essentially agreements of certain benefits in return for not introducing a lawsuit. You should be acutely aware of severance agreements, what they often contain, how likely you are to receive one, and what your steps should be if you are presented with one upon being terminated. Employment Attorney Group provides you with the best information available so you can understand severance agreements and termination.
What is an Employment Severance Agreement?
A severance agreement is handed out by an employer when a worker has been fired. It is a way of ensuring that the employee does not take legal action. It often outlines pay, fulfillment or breach or discontinuation of a contract, insurance coverage, and more. One of the main points is to emphasize that the employee was let go for a reason that is considered acceptable and legal, and leaves no room for statements regarding discrimination cases.
The employee must agree with the severance agreement in full in order to receive all of its benefits. Service agreements also usually dictate that the individual is unable to take legal action against the company regardless of the circumstances.
Is it required to receive a severance from your job?
What are laws pertaining to severance agreements?
There are no laws that require severance agreements to be handed out by employers, but there are laws that attempt to control what employers can do, request, waive, and more. The specific law can be found below.
Title 2, Government of the State of California; Division 3, Executive Department; Part 2.8, Department of Fair Employment and Housing; Chapter 7, Enforcement and Hearing Procedures; Article 1, Unlawful Practices: 12964.5.
(a) It is an unlawful employment practice for an employer, in exchange for a raise or bonus, or as a condition of employment or continued employment, to do either of the following:
(1) (A) For an employer to require an employee to sign a release of a claim or right under this part.
(2) (A) For an employer to require an employee to sign a nondisparagement agreement or other document that purports to deny the employee the right to disclose information about unlawful acts in the workplace, including, but not limited to, sexual harassment.
(b) Any agreement or document in violation of this section is contrary to public policy and shall be unenforceable. To better understand and fully comprehend the laws listed above, you can read them here.
What Can be Waived in a Severance Agreement?
Severance agreements can outline civil violations that can be waived. These are essentially instances that involve liability or some two-party ideas. If a crime is in question, it cannot be waived. For example, if a coworker committed an act of violence against you and pulled a weapon, he could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon; you cannot be asked to waive the charge by your employer. Examples of common waivers include:
- Filing a lawsuit for wrongful termination or wrongful firing
- Filing a lawsuit for sexual harassment
- Filing a lawsuit for defamation
- Filing a lawsuit for discrimination based on any protected class, such as gender, race, religion, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, and more
- The ability to discuss or reveal the terms, conditions, contents, details, and other information in the severance agreement
- Discussion or revelation of any trade secrets, recipes, practices, and more
- Disclose of the circumstances leading to the termination or firing
This is but a small list of rights that can be waived. You should always consider pros and cons, as well as the benefits, of waiving your rights if you are faced with a severance agreement.
What Cannot be Waived in a Severance Agreement?
There are some rights that cannot be waived in a severance agreement and other requests that an employer cannot make. It is important to understand these details because many employers will place them in severance agreements and tell you that they are well within their rights in doing so. They often trust that their workers won’t be familiar with the law or will simply take their word for it that the company is acting legally.
Some of the rights that cannot be waived include:
- Right to claim earned wages that were not paid out, such as unemployment, holiday pay, insurance, and more
- The right to report crimes that were committed at the place of employment or by coworkers or superiors
- The promise to commit a crime, such as perjury or theft, in exchange for the agreement
Other times, the severance agreement can be considered unenforceable or illegal. For example, employers may intimidate the worker into signing a severance agreement by way of threats or fraud. The employee must sign the severance agreement on moral grounds and must not be forced into it.
What do employers try to insert into severance agreements?
Employers often draft severance agreements with the intent of getting themselves the best possible situation, such as by requesting you to waive all your rights to sue and also to not work in similar fields or for a similar company for a certain amount of time. This is generally problematic, as most people are specialists and comfortable, so not being able to work at a similar company would be ruining to some.
Examples of insertions to look out for include:
- Language that contains clauses for non-competition or non-disclosure, as your future job hunt may become severely limited and hindered if you cannot pursue a job in your field
- Statements that make you appear guilty or that say you were at fault for incidents and injuries, especially if you were not responsible for them.
- Claims that there was no harassment and violation that occurred by any party
You should always be on the lookout for your future opportunities and lifestyle. Severance can take care of you for a few weeks or months, but it will not last forever. You should pursue the income you deserve.
What are my Legal Options After a Termination?
After termination, you can always find another job, elect to freelance, or do something else that will earn you income. Legally, you can potentially take action to sue for discrimination harassment, sue to receive income that was owed to you, and more. You can gather the necessary evidence, although it may be more difficult if you are unemployed now. You should try to find statements by your boss saying that he wished to fire you for such reasons; these can be recordings, video files, or messages. This kind of hard evidence will greatly benefit your clam. You will then need additional proof to bolster your claim. Many individuals reach out to coworkers or former coworkers. The former is more likely to help due to a disconnect between them and the company. Individuals who still work there, though, may have a certain refusal to say anything, as mentioning it or taking sides can lead to their own termination in a swift manner.
Deadline to Sue For Lost Wages
There are specific deadlines if you wish to sue your employer for an employment-related offense. For example, if you were attempting to sue him for discrimination, you would have 1 year from the date of the discrimination. However, that does not hold true if the defendant was a government entity, in which case you only have 45 days to take legal action. . Other cases will have different statutes; in pursuing lost wages, you only have 3 years from the time the money went missing or was not credited to you.
To ensure that you receive everything you need, with or without a severance agreement, you can contact our firm, Employment Attorney Group. We’ll gladly look over your case and tell you more about the legal process, what your claim may look like, and more.