Employers frequently propose a severance or separation agreement at the time of firing. The employee is offered a few weeks or months of salary continuation in exchange for the employee’s agreement to release any legal claims against the employer.

Mr. Staples is often asked for legal advice about such agreements. The client should first understand the terms and legal implications of the agreement before it is signed. The circumstances of the employee’s termination should be analyzed to determine whether there are valid claims which should be pursued and not released. If some form of a separation agreement is in the client’s interest, consideration should be given to a counterproposal. There are a number of ways in which a separation agreement can often be improved from the employee’s standpoint. These sometimes include enhancement of the severance and the addition of non-financial terms which will benefit the employee in the search for new employment.

A severance or separation agreement is an important legal document with significant ramifications to the employee who signs it. Employees should be well informed as to its terms, as well as their rights and alternatives.