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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 12476
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I was terminated today from an executive role. I have been

Customer Question

I was terminated today from an executive role. I have been given 4 weeks pay, although employed for 18 months. I had to give 4 months notice but without cause they only had to give 2 weeks per year. They want me to sign a release which prevents me from taking any action I believe this is because I know of unethical dealings within the organization which I suspect are a reason for my departure - I was outspoken about what was happening.
On employment I was to get between 15 - 30% of base salary as a bonus for meeting objectives. These were discussed informally but never recorded. In Feb I wrote to owner expressing how I felt I measured against these and requesting promised review. He said we would discuss but has never done so. I have never had a payment either. In termination letter today he states no bonus owing as specified goals never attained. As he has never formally recorded or discussed them can he do this? Should they not have been discussed? Or in fact if nothing recorded then I had no goals to meet and therefore completed my role as required and hence met all goals. I believe this is a material breach which should have been paid within 120 days after end February.
I have only until Monday to sign release.
I need advise on if letter is fair considering no reasons for termination given, no feedback offered etc. Should bonus be paid. Do I have to sign and comply with release even though I know of wrongful behaviours. How best to proceed?
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 8 months ago.

Hello and welcome. My name is ***** ***** it will be my pleasure to assist you.

Generally an employer has the right to terminate employment "at will" without regard to what is fair or reasonable. There is also no legal obligation to pay any severance. So, the fact they didn't give a reason for your termination would not be unlawful and so is not something that you can use to leverage severance.

Your employer might be inclined to offer severance in exchange for a confidentiality agreement if you possess sensitive information about the company, but you cannot overtly threaten to release such information if they don't pay you money as that could be construed as extortion which is actually a crime. The most you can do is suggest that you will sign a confidentiality clause (and let them draw from that whatever conclusions they may) in exchange for a larger severance package. You need to be extremely careful here though because extortion is a serious matter.

As for the bonus, employers generally have the right to pay or not pay bonuses at their discretion. However, you could argue something called breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, which is basically a principle which holds that an employer cannot unfairly deprive an employee of a benefit they could have reasonably expected from their employment, such as a bonus. It would be a very hard claim t actually win in court, but at least the threat gives you some more leverage to negotiate severance.

I hope this helps, and I wish you luck.