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Four Reasons You Need a Lawyer to Review Your Florida Severance Agreement

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A severance agreement also known as a separation agreement can be  a saving grace when you are ask to depart from your job.  However, it can also carry consequences that impact your future career choices. You may review the terms of the agreement and see no cause for concern; still, you’re at a disadvantage if you don’t have a legal background. In addition to the financial package, a severance agreement contains terms that are intended to protect the interests of your employer – not your own.  It is wise to retain a qualified employment contracts attorney with specific experience in Florida law before you sign a severance agreement, as you may be able to negotiate clauses that would otherwise have negative consequences. Here are four common provisions that a lawyer would pay close attention to when reviewing a severance agreement.

Payment Terms

If you’re already entitled to a severance payment under your original contract for employment, an additional agreement isn’t necessary to be entitled to it. Crafty employers may attempt to have you sign a severance agreement to add to your obligations; this is contrary to contracts law. A severance agreement should provide more benefits than any package you’re already allowed, which would include any payments for unreimbursed expenses and paid vacation time.

Release of Claims

One of the principal motivations for employers to  offer a severance agreement to an employee is to ensure that the employee releases them from all potential legal claims, known and unknown. The agreements that many companies use are typically drafted to favor their own interests, so you’re left without options if you have claims against the employer or you discover later that you had a legal claim that you waived.  An employment attorney will discuss your specific situation, and advise your whether agreeing to a general release makes sense.

Restrictive Covenants

Some severance agreements add restrictive covenants that prohibit an employee from working for a competitor or soliciting its customers.  Under Florida law, a restrictive covenant is unenforceable unless it is in writing, reasonable in scope, and comply with other legal requirements. If you did not have a written non-compete or non-solicitation agreement, you do not want to agree to one upon your separation unless it makes sense monetarily and/or you intend to leave that industry completely. Similarly, if you had a signed a restrictive covenant before your separation, you should be sure not to sign one in the severance agreement that expands its.

Confidentiality Requirements

Employers have good reason to keep the terms of a severance agreement confidential, but you may need to discuss the provisions with certain individuals. A lawyer can help you negotiate clauses that allow you to reveal the contents of the agreement to your family, attorney, financial advisers, and others.

The financial package may seem attractive on its face as a departing employee, but you should always bear an important point in mind when reviewing a severance agreement: Your soon-to-be former employer is offering the severance to protect itself, not you. You can even the legal playing field when you consult with an experienced employment contracts attorney to represent your interests, negotiate more favorable terms, and eliminate those provisions that may have harsh implications. For more information on severance agreements and other contracts you may execute when leaving your job, please contact Penichet Law. Our attorneys can answer your questions or schedule a consultation for you at our Miami office.