I WAS JUST LET GO FROM MY JOB. SHOULD I ACCEPT THE SEVERANCE PACKAGE?
Some times a worker sees it coming for months. Other times, an employee is shocked to be let go. Whatever the circumstances, you absolutely need to take the time to read your proposed severance and to obtain legal advice. This need not be expensive. As with other law firms, at Tamming Law we offer severance reviews for a very modest fee.
At Tamming Law in Owen Sound, we offer these key suggestions from the get go.
• Ignore any deadline your employer imposes for acceptance: You are entitled to reasonable time to evaluate your options. Don’t be steamrolled. The offer they keep open for acceptance until Friday will still be open for acceptance on Tuesday. It just will. Employers are not irrational, as a rule.
• Don’t be reactive: Your employer has made a business decision. You must evaluate the package in a similar frame of mind. No matter how unfair you think you have been treated, consider the terms of severance to be business, nothing more. Don’t engage. Don’t demand explanations. Don’t send out hot emails. All of that is pointless at this stage.
• Be honest with yourself and your lawyer: If your employment file is full of reprimands, that is important. If you have been goofing off at the office on the web, I need to know that now and not a year from now when proof of inappropriate web activity is served up as part of the lawsuit. If you missed sales targets by a wide margin, let’s not pretend that you have lost your bonus entitlement. It is critical that you in effect “interrogate” yourself at this stage; if we do litigate for more money, any such warts will be revealed in the litigation process.
Most, not all, employers expect you to come back with a higher number. Provided emotions are kept out of it, one can respectfully make a counter offer without inflaming the situation.
Ideally, you don’t want to leave money on the table. On the other hand, if the offer is 90% of what is fair, it makes no sense to litigate for the extra 10% in order to achieve a perfect severance.
A fair severance includes:
- Up front payment of your minimum entitlement under the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”). This means one week termination pay for every year you worked, to a maximum of 8 weeks. PLUS, for large employers, you get one week severance pay for every year worked to a maximum of 26 weeks. You do not have to sign a release or anything for this to be paid out. It is illegal for the employer to withhold it.
- Generally speaking, a total of 3.5 to 4 weeks for every year served, including those ESA payments.
- Payment of an extra amount in lieu of benefits to which you would have been entitled during a reasonable notice period.
- Payment of any bonus to which you would have been entitled.
- A positive letter of reference.
- Help with locating a new job.
If your severance package is missing any of these elements, we generally advise clients to reject the offer and go for more. There are two exceptions:
• Do you have another similar paying job around the corner? If so, we will urge a quick settlement.
• Did you do anything in the job which would cause a judge to say you were fired for “just cause”? That means theft, harassment of other employees and other awful workplace conduct. If anything like that spills out in litigation, you will regret not grabbing the severance when it was offered at the beginning.