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Is there any flexibility in negotiating severance agreements?

Finding that dream job with a California company can be a challenge. Holding on to it can be difficult, as well. With the cost of living being what it is, no worker wants to be suddenly released from a position and left high and dry, but it can happen under California's "at-will" system of employment. One way to protect yourself is by a solid severance contract.

Considering the education required to be a player in the high-tech industry that prevails in our region, it's likely that most readers know the value of severance deals. What some might not be aware of is that you don't have to be a high-level executive to seek such a benefit. Workers on the corporate ladder well below the top rung may do well to speak with an experienced attorney to understand their legal rights and options.

For example, some might believe that severance packages have to be negotiated before signing on to work for a company. That isn't the case. Indeed, there can be some drawbacks to pursuing that strategy. If you fail to leave the window open for renegotiating terms, you could find yourself shortchanged by a severance contract that seemed great then, but is horrible today.

Maintaining flexibility is something most legal experts agree is worth striving for when a severance agreement with an employer is needed or is anticipated. To that end, here some specific aspects worth keeping in mind:

  • Don't sign away rights to just compensation. An employer might seek to block you from making any claims after the agreement is executed. Make sure it will deliver the payment you expect.
  • Consider including protection against claims by the employer. This could be helpful to prevent claims by your old employer of wrongful behavior if you go to work for a competitor.

These are only a couple of thoughts on severance elements. There are plenty of others to consider. In an at-will employment environment, the wisdom of looking out for number one certainly deserves to be followed.

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