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Insofar as severance is concerned, it is useful to first understand that an employer's only legal obligation to provide severance is derived from something called the WARN Act. WARN requires employers to provide either 60 day's notice of a mass layoff
(which it seems this would qualify as) or, in the alternative, 60 day's wages
. This is an employer's ONLY legal obligation with respect to severance. If they provide 60 day's notice, there is no legal obligation to pay any severance at all barring some sort of provision in your employment contract
that requires severance, and that would be unusual.
Sometimes employers offer severance purely out of good will, but in the vast majority of circumstances, it is because in exchange they want a waiver of the employee's right to bring legal claims against their employer. Now, just because an employer wants a waiver of the employee's right to sue doesn't mean the employee has a legal basis to sue. In all states but Montana, employment is "at will
" absent an express agreement to the contrary, and so employees can be fired for virtually any non-discriminatory reason.
In the context of a mass layoff, it would be very hard to argue that one's termination
is discriminatory (based on a legally protected trait, like age) because the employer is releasing many other individuals at the same time. It's not as though one employee is being targeted. Therefore, unless you have particularly compelling evidence to suggest a discriminatory motive for why you are being included in this layoff
, the threat of a legal action (implicit or explicit) by you is probably not going to give you much leverage to negotiate your severance package.
A standard measure for calculating severance is one week for every year of service, so the fact that you are receiving more than that would suggest that this offer is certainly fair. Can you attempt to negotiate more? Certainly. But conversely, your employer can withdraw severance altogether to the extent that are not obligated to pay anything under WARN. So caution is advised in that respect.
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