Do I Need a Lawyer to Negotiate Severance?

Employees often feel disoriented, stressed, and blindsided when they are let go from their jobs. This feeling can be compounded if the employee is then confronted with a severance agreement written in legal jargon and set to expire in a few short weeks. With the right support behind you, whether that means retaining counsel or doing some research on your own, the process of understanding and negotiating your severance can be much less painful and can actually offer you a significant boost as you pursue the next chapter of your career. 

Only about 48 percent of organizations have a standard severance plan.  Typically, these types of plans include a formula for calculating how much severance an employee will be offered based on a few main factors including base salary, job title, and years of service. However, that does not mean you can’t negotiate if you think you deserve more, or even if your company didn’t offer a severance at all.

Particularly, if you feel you were let go for an illegal reason, such as discrimination on the basis of race or gender or for whistleblowing on illegal or unethical activities, , then having legal representation can drastically improve the severance package you receive. Alternatively, you may decide to negotiate on your own if you want to get the process over with as quickly as possible, even if that means sacrificing a few dollars.

In this guide, we will discuss what to do when faced with the decision of whether to retain a lawyer or to go it alone, so  you make the right choice for you.

Keep reading to discover all about negotiating severance packages and how to develop a severance negotiation strategy properly.

What Is Severance & How Does It Work?

Severance is money that your employer may pay you when you are let go from your job. It is meant to help you during the transition period while you search for a new opportunity. An important aspect of a severance agreement is that it will often contain a general release of liability for the company.  This means that in exchange for the severance payment, the employee is agreeing to give up his or her right to sue the company, even if the company terminated the employee for an illegal or discriminatory reason. 

Severance is not required by law, but some employers offer it because it can protect them from future lawsuits, and it can help provide a cushion for former employees.  If your employer does offer severance, they will usually put it in writing and you should take some time to read over the agreement before signing anything.

Once you sign, you are agreeing to the terms that have been laid out and often waiving any legal claims against the company stemming from your employment or termination. Therefore, it is important that you understand what the agreement includes before signing your name to any documents.

What to Do If Your Employer Does Not Offer Severance?

Image of a person who was fired and employer does not have a severance package

If your employer does not offer severance, you may still be able to negotiate for it. This is one scenario where having a lawyer can be particularly helpful. An attorney can reach out to your employer on your behalf and try to negotiate a severance package that is fair.

However, if you decide to negotiate on your own, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, negotiation is a process, so the first offer you receive is often not the highest number your employer is willing to offer: be prepared to push for more after the first offer that your employer gives you.

Second, be prepared to explain why you deserve severance.Especially for companies that don’t have a standard severance plan in place, a company may need help understanding that a severance package is of value to them too, because it protects them from future lawsuits.

 Finally, stay flexible, but have a realistic idea of what you are willing to settle for before going into negotiations so that you don’t sell yourself short.

In addition, keep in mind that you may be able to negotiate other things besides a payout.

For example, if you are worried about getting health insurance, you can ask your employer to continue providing it for a certain period of time. Or you can request changes to any restrictive covenant the employer may try to impose or request a period of career counseling.  

Do I Need A Lawyer to Negotiate Severance?

The answer to this question will depend on your individual situation. If you feel like you have a legal case against your former employer,  having legal representation can dramatically improve your severance package and help you get the compensation you deserve. 

However, if you just want to get the process over with as quickly as possible and maximizing your payout is not the most important to you, negotiating on your own is something you may consider.

Some things that you may want to consider when making this decision are:

  • Whether your employer violated any laws during your employment or termination
  • The severity of the allegations against you (if any)
  • The amount of severance being offered
  • How much time and energy you are willing to put into the process
  • How comfortable you are negotiating on your own

If you do decide to negotiate on your own, remember  to stay calm and level-headed. This is not the time to get emotional or defensive – remember that you are trying to reach an agreement that is beneficial for both parties.

Second, be prepared to compromise. You may not get everything that you want, but if you are able to reach an agreement that is fair for both sides, it will be worth it in the end.

Finally, make sure that you get any agreement in writing before signing anything. This way, there can be no confusion about what was agreed upon, and each party knows what they need to do in order to hold up their end of the deal.

Hiring a Lawyer

Now that you know the answer to whether you need a lawyer in your corner, you are well on your way to making the right choice for you.

First, make sure that you find an experienced employment lawyer who understands employment law, and how to handle  severance agreements.

Second, be prepared to pay for their services – usually, lawyers will charge by the hour or take a percentage of the total severance package that they are able to negotiate for you.

Finally, remember that even if you have a lawyer representing you, the final decision about whether or not to accept the severance agreement is up to you.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to hire a lawyer to help with your severance negotiations is up to you. If you are unsure of what to do, it may be helpful to speak with an experienced employment lawyer to get their opinion on your situation.

What Happens Next?

Once you have decided whether or not to hire a severance lawyer, the next step is to begin negotiating with your employer. If you are representing yourself, start by putting together a list of what you would like to achieve through the severance agreement. Some things that you may want to ask for are:

  • A fair financial settlement
  • Continued health insurance coverage
  • Outplacement assistance
  • An agreed-upon reference letter
  • A release from any non-compete agreements

If you have hired a Chicago severance attorney, they will handle the negotiations for you. However, it is still important that you are involved in the process and understand what is happening every step of the way.

Once an agreement has been reached, both parties will sign the severance agreement, making it legally binding.

Make sure that you take some time to read over the agreement before signing anything – remember, once you sign, you are agreeing to all of the terms that have been laid out and waiving any future legal claims against the company.

After you have signed the severance agreement, your employment with the company will end, and you will begin your transition to a new job. This can be a difficult time, but try to stay positive and remember that you have the opportunity to start fresh and begin anew.

If you have any questions about the severance negotiation process or are unsure of what to do next, reach out to an experienced employment lawyer for guidance.

They can help you understand your rights and options and ensure that you are getting a fair severance agreement. With their help, you can move on from this difficult situation and start planning for your future.

Common Mistakes Made With Severance Packages

When it comes to negotiating a severance package, there are a few common mistakes that employees make.

First, an employee may fail to negotiate at all. If you are offered a severance agreement, don’t just automatically accept it – take the time to review the offer and see if there is room for negotiation. 

Second, an employee may not realize all he or she is giving up in exchange for the severance payment.  Once you sign an agreement, you will have agreed not to sue the company, even if your termination was wrongful or illegal.  Make sure you consider the value of your potential legal claim when determining if the offer of severance fully compensates you for giving up your rights. 

Finally, they forget about non-monetary items. When negotiating your severance package, don’t just focus on the financial aspects – be sure to also think about things like continued health insurance coverage, outplacement assistance, and agreed-upon reference letters.

If you have been laid off, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced employment lawyer for guidance.

They can help you understand your rights and options and ensure that you get a fair severance agreement. With their help, you can move on from this difficult situation and start planning for your future.

Your Severance, Your Way

Deciding whether or not to hire a lawyer to help with your severance negotiations is a personal decision that should be based on your individual situation. So the answer to “do I need a lawyer to negotiate severance?” will be highly personal.

If you do decide to hire a lawyer, make sure that you find one who is experienced in employment claims, and remember that you will likely have to pay for their services, but often not until you recover.

If you have any questions about the process, reach out to an experienced employment lawyer for guidance. With their help, you can ensure that you are getting a fair severance agreement and begin planning for your future.

If you’re interested in negotiating severance successfully, get in touch with us now, and we will make sure you get the funds you deserve.

Contact us to schedule your FREE consultation.

Lázaro Law Group
321 S. Plymouth Ct Suite 1250,
Chicago, IL 60604

Rafael E. Lazaro
Rated by Super Lawyers


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