Severance Agreements Attorney in Akron, Ohio

Employment in Ohio is considered at will. This means that either employer or employee can end the relationship at any time-for any reason or for no reason. If an employer decides to let you go, they are under no obligation to provide any cash or benefits as part of your departure, yet many employers decide to offer severance packages that can include pay and benefits, such as the continuation of your health insurance.

Employers who offer severance packages to employees they're letting go aren't necessarily doing so for the sake of altruism. As part of the package, you - the departing employee - will have to agree to a range of limitations and restrictions. Primarily, you will be required to waive your right to bring a lawsuit against the company for wrongful termination or for any other actionable reason.

If you're being offered a severance package in or around Akron, Ohio, don't jump to "yes" the minute it's offered. Consult with an experienced employment law attorney about your rights and options when it comes to these agreements. Contact the Law Offices of F. Benjamin Riek III to discuss the package and what your response should be.

Attorney F. Benjamin Riek III has more than four decades of experience in employment law, including working for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). He knows your rights and will help you navigate through the negotiations toward a fair and equitable severance package. His office and team serve clients in Akron as well as neighboring Hudson, Canton, Cleveland, and Lorain.

Severance Agreements Explained

No law in Ohio requires employers to offer severance packages, and likewise, no law mandates what has to be covered in a severance agreement. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has no provisions requiring or regulating severance packages. This lack of statutory or regulatory oversight gives both employer and employee-wide latitude in forging a severance agreement.

The employers' primary motivations for offering severance packages are to protect the company not only legally but also reputationally. No employer wants to earn the reputation that their company treats employees unfairly.

Typical Conditions Imposed by a Severance Agreement

Your typical severance package will impose a number of conditions on the departing employee, including:

  • WAIVING THE RIGHT TO SUE: The employee must agree not to sue even if the company has breached a contract or you feel the termination is due to reasons such as discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.
  • AGREEING TO CONFIDENTIALITY: The employee must consent not to divulge trade secrets or confidential company procedures and policies, and also not to disclose the terms of their severance package.
  • AGREEING TO NON-DISPARAGEMENT: The employee must agree not to speak harshly about the company.
  • AGREEING TO A NON-COMPETE PERIOD: The employer may require the departing employee not to take employment with a competing company, or start-up, for a set period of time.
  • AGREEING TO A NO-REHIRE PROVISION: Though not always included, the package may forbid the departing employee from applying for future employment with the company.

What a Severance Package Cannot Do

Though an employer can ask you to forego legal actions, they cannot forbid you from filing a charge of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Also, if you, the employee, are over the age of 40, there are restrictions on waiving an age discrimination claim unless the employer includes several written protections in the package.

Your Rights as the Terminated Employee

Though employers are not required to offer severance packages, you as the employee being terminated can bargain for provisions that you feel are important to you. The employer may or may not be flexible, but it's worth negotiating for the terms you deem essential for your future.

The severance proposal may initially offer you just a lump sum payment or a continuation of your wages for a set period of time, but you can request other considerations.

The employer is not going to suddenly drop the lawsuit waiver provision, but they may be enticed to add continuation of your health insurance benefits for a set amount of time while you seek new employment. You can also bargain for outplacement or job training services to help you secure future work.

If you are over 40, you have even more rights. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) affords you 21 days to review the severance offer, and then another seven days to change your mind if you do accept it.

Severance Agreements Attorney in Akron, Ohio

A severance agreement can provide the kind of cushion you need to make the transition to a new job and perhaps a new career, but you don't necessarily have to jump at the first offer. Tell your employer you need some time to think it over and discuss it with friends and family. Meanwhile, contact the Law Offices of F. Benjamin Riek III to discuss the offer and the circumstances of your termination. The firm is dedicated to protecting the rights of hardworking Ohio employees.