Stretch Your Dollar: What to look for when signing that separation agreement

Stretch Your Dollar

(WTNH) — We’re seven months into a pandemic and the sad reality is that businesses are struggling to continue, which means many workers may be faced with separation agreements as a way to cut costs.

But before you agree to sign anything, employment lawyers warn it may not be in your best interest.

“Don’t assume that just because it’s written in legal ease and it looks formal, that it’s fair and reasonable for you to sign it,” said Josh Goodbaum, a partner at Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti.

He said signing separation agreements is a serious decision, which once should think about thoroughly and ensure whatever you think you’re getting is in writing.

“You’re almost certainly not going to get something that’s not listed in the agreement. Don’t sign the agreement thinking, ‘Oh, I’m sure they’ll do the right thing later and give me the thing I’m entitled to.’ No, make sure that what you think you’re getting is actually listed in the agreement.”

Beyond getting what you’re entitled to, remember you can usually negotiate if there’s a little something more you’d like to say yes to the agreement. It’s also important to stop and think about why you’re on the chopping block.

“It’s legitimate in general for an employer to be looking across the board at how it can cut costs,” said Goodbaum. “It’s not legal for an employer to try and get rid of employees whose healthcare costs more…or whom it perceives are closer to retirement age…It’s not legal for an employer to select only employees who’ve complained about something in the workplace.”

People should also consider talking to someone if something about the deal just doesn’t seem right..

Goodbaum also said employees should look out for non-competes or other terms that could restrict future employment after termination.

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