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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 12950
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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A good friend got fired today basically. She has been

Customer Question

hi. A good friend got fired today basically. She has been working close to 30 years for this company and is 59. They are offering her a half year salary and giving her 6 days to respond. She was an accounts manager.
JA: Was this discussed with a manager, HR, or an attorney?
Customer: No
JA: Is the employment "at will," union, full time, or part time?
Customer: full time
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: not really
Submitted: 2 months ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 2 months ago.

Hello and thank you for entrusting me to assist you. I am sorry to hear about your friend. Did you have a specific question regarding this situation? I very much look forward to helping you on this matter.

Customer: replied 2 months ago.
should she be seeing a lawyer or does the pay out seem fair.
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 2 months ago.

Thank you.

First, what you must understand, is that the law does not actually require employers to pay any severance money at all, except in certain very limited and most likely inapplicable circumstances involving mass layoffs (50 or more employees without notice). Otherwise, any amount of severance is purely discretionary, and typically offered in exchange for whatever legal claims the employee may have against the employer. Naturally, therefore, the amount of severance an employer offers tends to correlate to the "litigation risk" they see for themselves. In other words, if they believe the employee has a potentially good lawsuit they could bring against the company that exposes the company to a large judgment, they will be willing to pay more in severance money to ensure that a lawsuit is not brought. But by that same token, if the employer doesn't see a significant litigation risk, they probably aren't going to be inclined to pay much in severance because even if they are sued, the case can likely be defeated, or the judgment that a jury is likely to return won't be that significant.

The difficult thing is that most employees actually don't have grounds to sue their employer when they are let go. This is because employment is generally "at will" absent an express agreement to the contrary. At will employment can be terminated for any reason not amounting to discrimination on the basis of a legally protected trait (race, religion, gender, etc.) or retaliation for engaging in certain forms of legally protected conduct (filing a wage claim, taking FMLA leave, etc.). It doesn't matter whether the basis for termination is fair, reasonable or even true.

So, if your friend believes, for instance, that she can prove she is being terminated specifically because of how old she is (i.e. derogatory comments about her age have been made and she is being replaced by someone younger), that gives her considerably more leverage to negotiate severance, and she might be able to negotiate more.

But in all honesty, 6 months severance is a VERY generous offer. Insisting on more could risk the entire deal, and then it would be up to her to sue in court and attempt to recover at least as much there. Litigation will take a year or longer and be extremely stressful and time consuming. So these are things that need to be taken into account as well.

In general I would think that only the most egregious of legal claims against one's employer would be worth passing up 6 months severance for. She can still try to negotiate a little more, as well, but to let this slip away could very well wind up being something she extremely regrets.

I hope that you find this information helpful. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.

If you do not require any further assistance, please be so kind as to provide a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you. Very best wishes moving forward.

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