Can an employer change severance agreement after it was signed and notarized?

I signed and sent back the original separation agreement. Only I had to sign not the employer since it was their contract to me. After I returned it they said they made an administrative error in production and sent a revised agreement for a lower amount. I accepted the original amount since this amount was also on paperwork I recvd when leaving the company. Can they do this? Aren’t they bound to the original agreement? What are my rights?

Asked on July 26, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

It depends on the nature of the error. A typo or mathematical error can be corrected, if from the context, the parties could see what the number should have been. For example: say you earn $104,000 per year, or $2,000 per week. Say that the agreement states that the severance will be four weeks. Later in the agreement, instead of $8,000 (4 weeks x $2,000/week), it has the number $18,000.00. In the context of 4 weeks severance for someone making $104k per year, $18k is clearly a math error or a typo and can be corrected; if this went to court, a judge would have no problem finding that the agreement should have been for $8k, given that it was for 4 weeks severance.

However, an "error" in the form of "we re-thought it and didn't want to pay that much" cannot be corrected: if the employer agreed to pay you more than they "should" have, they are stuck with what they agreed, and you could sue to enforce the original agreement.

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