Can an employer change the terms of severance separation before your last scheduled work day?

My husband was told 2 months ago (on the 16th) that his company was reorganizing and due to it, his last date of employment would be in the middle of this month (the 15th). They laid out a severance package for him on the same date they informed him of his RIF paperwork (the 16th). In this paperwork, it states he’d be receiving 4 weeks’ severance, as well as COBRA insurance, and outplacement services not to exceed $1,000. However, yesterday he, and the other employees that are being laid off in 12 days, were taken into a meeting and informed that the severance package had changed; now only 2 weeks pay was being offered and no outsourcing. Can they do this?

Asked on November 4, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Oregon


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes, they probably can do this. IF your husband had given up something in reliance on the stated severance--for example, if he had voluntarily resigned in exchange for receiving the package they described, or had signed a release giving up any potential claims or lawsuits he might have had against the company--then they  most likely could not change the package. In that case, he could have given

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