How do I negotiate severance pay

Hi, I was presented a severance offer
yesterday after returning from 12 weeks
of FMLA. My employer offered 20k 4
weeks vacation 27k. I’ve been a
salaried employee for nearly 14 years. I
am considering negotiating for 2 weeks
for every year I’ve been there 44k
but I’m concerned they might recind the
original offer. Any advice?

Asked on November 26, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

First, be careful about "negotiating": if you provide a counteroffer, that could be taken legally as rejecting this offer, meaning they could withdraw it and leave you with nothing. Bear in mind that there is no right to severance: employers do not need to provide it. So if you reject this offer, you cannot necessarily be sure of getting anything.
The above is the general rule: you don't have leverage, unless you have a written employment contract guarantying you severance, in which case you are entitled to whatever the contract says.
However, an employer may not retaliate against an employee for using FMLA, or discriminate against them for having a disability. IF the employer is doing one of these things--the severance offer is linked, you believe, to your medical condition (if that's why you used FMLA) or your use of FMLA leave, then you may have a significant potential legal claim. (If the offer has nothing to do with that and the timing is just coincidental, you would not.) In that event, since you could contact the EEOC (disability discrimination) or department of labor (FMLA retaliation) to file a claim, you would have more leverage, would have a back-up if they do withdraw the offer, and could therefore be more agressive.


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