Jeremy H. Little: What Should You Look For In A Severance Package?

February 8, 2023
Jeremy H. Little: What Should You Look For In A Severance Package?

Severance packages are not all created equal. There are many factors that can make a severance package worthwhile or can harm you in the long run. Here are some things that you and your expert employment lawyer should keep in mind:

1. The Fine Print

The idea of the “fine print” is a concept popular culture relentlessly mocks but there is a good basis for paying attention to it. If the severance package is seemingly good but the fine print is not you can effectively shoot yourself in the foot. So what do we mean by “fine print”? 

Fine print is, at its most basic, the terms and conditions that apply to your offer. However the terms and conditions of a severance package are not the same as agreeing to terms and conditions in order to use your smartphone. Terms and conditions are not one-size-fits-all and the wrong terms and conditions can turn a seemingly great offer into a terrible one. Be very careful to know exactly what you are agreeing to and the consequences. 

2. The Offer

This point may sound self-evident but it needs to be said: always professionally evaluate your offer. Sometimes what sounds like a fair offer is actually unfair based on circumstances and laws. There are also many people who have called thinking that they are getting a poor offer but are in fact receiving a decent one. Minor details can make a major difference in terms of what a fair offer is. The law is complicated and you need an expert in order to see clearly, cut through the red tape quickly, and navigate it to give you the right result. An expert employment lawyer should be able to quickly tell you whether your offer is good, bad or somewhere in the middle. 

3. Act Quickly

The delays for contesting a severance package are extremely short! It is really important that you contact an employment lawyer quickly to evaluate your severance package. If there is anything that needs to be done then it needs to be started fast before you miss your chance. 

4. Be Practical

It is not always as simple as whether an offer is good or not. The law is rarely so directly applied that there are no practicalities to consider. There are times when a severance package is cheap but not worth contesting because it would cost you more money than you could gain to contest it. A good employment lawyer should tell you if that is the case and, unless you have other reasons for pursuing a better offer, you should take their advice. Similarly, there are cases where an offer might superficially look good but it is actually fair and therefore strategically worthwhile to push for more. 

An honest employment lawyer will tell you whether the next steps are worth pursuing. A good lawyer will always focus on solutions that help you maximize your financial return and protect your interests. Keep in mind: the next step would be to hire an employment lawyer to negotiate and not to jump straight into litigation. 

5. When You Compare, You Despair

There is always the temptation to compare severance packages with others. You may want to compare them with friends, relatives and ex-colleagues. It is important to remember that severance packages can rightfully vary based on dozens of factors – many of them far from obvious to the untrained eye. Accordingly, you should get a professional evaluation on your offer and listen to that practical advice on your severance package. Remember: don’t compare your severance package with others – that way lies only frustration. When people compare, they may think that a lousy severance package is good. Comparison can also lead to believing that a good severance package is bad. These should both be avoided. 

Bonus: Get a Professional

It may sound self-serving for a law firm to say this but you should hire an employment lawyer rather than try to do it yourself. Employment law is a complicated headache at the best of times and dismissals are not the best of times. Leaving aside any emotion and frustration you may be feeling, a professional can cut through the red tape far more efficiently and effectively. Whatever money you do save by not hiring an expert, you’ll likely lose far more money based on what you leave on the table in terms of extra money and tax structure alone. So hire a specialized employment lawyer, value them, and follow their advice. That is the best advice we can give you. 

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