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You can negotiate a California severance package

You walk into your office ready for a hard day of work. An hour later, you walk back out into the California morning sunshine with a pink slip.

In between, you sit numb, half listening as your company's human resources representative tells you when your final paycheck will be directly deposited and the status of your medical insurance. She gives you some papers to sign and get back to the company.

When you lose your job, it is your right to negotiate a severance package, especially if you and your company have an employment agreement in place. If you are over 40 years old and receive a severance package offer, the company must give you three weeks to consider it.

However, don't let that severance offer sit on your desk for 21 days. You need to review it closely and determine what else you should ask for -- especially if you were an executive-level employee.

There are a number of benefits you might be entitled to. Make sure you prioritize them since you won't win every point. Here are just a few of them.

  • Severance pay: Is this the company's top offer? Can you get it in a lump sum instead of over time? Will the severance include any bonus money you've accrued? Should you die or become disabled before the severance pay has been received, will the company still pay it to you or your heirs?
  • Days off: Does the offer include all the vacation and personal time off you've accrued?
  • Stock options: How will the company handle the vesting of your stock options?
  • Outplacement firm: Will the company pay for you to hire an outplacement firm of your choice instead of using one the company provides? This request often can result in a payout of up to $25,000.

No matter how long you are given to sign the agreement, it would be wise to consult with a California attorney who is experienced in handling severance agreements. You want to walk away with the best agreement possible.

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