Employees do not usually have a right to severance upon being terminated from their jobs in Texas. However, sometimes an employee has a legal claim to assert against an employer. For example, there may be evidence that your employer treated you differently on the job or decided to terminate you based on your age, gender, race, disability, or use of family or medical leave. Or perhaps your employer has a severance policy, and you believe that you should be awarded severance under that policy. If you are entering into severance negotiations, you should consult an Austin wrongful termination attorney to make sure that you work out an agreement that will work for you in the post-employment period.Advancing Your Interests During Severance Negotiations
Severance pay in Texas is dismissal or separation income that is paid when an employee is terminated on top of their usual earnings from the employer. Courts define severance pay as a payment that the employer obligates itself to make based on a formula, such as how long an employee worked for the company. You are not required to simply take the severance that you are offered. Sometimes employers offer severance because they want to avoid being sued for discrimination or retaliation. However, the severance may not be enough based on your individual employment circumstances.
Often, negotiating your severance can help you get significantly better terms that can help you transition to another position or into retirement. It can be challenging for a layperson to understand specific terms that appear in severance agreements. For example, it is common for employers to require a "release of claims" in exchange for severance. If you agree to such a term, you are giving up any discrimination or retaliation claim that you might have against the employer. For example, your employer may have tried to get you to take an early retirement, and it may have finally terminated you because you did not take the early retirement. If you agree to release all claims, you give up a potential age discrimination claim.
Another clause of a severance agreement may involve a non-compete agreement. This is a promise by you not to compete by establishing your own business or working for a competitor after you are terminated. It might require you not to take clients from the current employer. If there is such a clause, it should be narrowly written, and you may be able to negotiate more in severance to compensate for giving up a right.
Sometimes, an employer that knows that an employee has a wrongful termination claim requires a confidentiality provision in a severance agreement. Such a provision would limit your ability to sue or even publicize the mistreatment that you faced at your employer. It can even limit your ability to work for a period. You should not sign away your rights to talk about what happened to you without discussing the matter with an employment litigator.
There are special protections for employees who are at least 40 years old. Under the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, employers permit employees a certain amount of time to consider the release and an amount of time ot revoke the release. You have 21 days to consider the release of your potential age discrimination claims before you sign a severance agreement, and there is a seven-day revocation period from the date of signing. Because you can change your mind within that period, it is wise to consult an attorney if you suspect that you might have a claim that entitles you to a greater amount of severance.
In general, you should consult an attorney if you belong to a protected class and need to enter into severance negotiations. You may not want to release all claims or agree to keep things confidential in a situation in which the transition to unemployment or retirement is uncertain or in which the employer asks you to meet a post-employment obligation, such as not competing.Consult the Employment Attorneys at our Austin Firm
If you are entering into severance negotiations, you should consult an employment lawyer. We can help you understand your rights and conduct negotiations to ensure a smoother transition to another company or retirement. The Austin attorneys at Wiley Walsh, P.C. represent employees in Austin, Georgetown, Round Rock, Cedar Park, Pflugerville, Leander, Del Valle, Kyle, San Marcos, San Antonio, New Braunfels, and Fredericksburg, among other cities. Call us at (512) 271-5527 or use our online form to set up an appointment. We can also advise people who need an employment discrimination lawyer or assistance with another type of claim.