If I was offer a severance package and take it, can I still sue the company later?

I was laid off recently and was offered a severance package. In the document it says that I cannot but I read in the internet that even if I take the severance since I am receiving a standard package, I could still suit the company. I complained before to HR and they told me they won’t retaliate against me. I participated in several projects and I got a good evaluation. There was always an excuse for not being promoted. Also, last year I took some of the responsibilities of a Senior Manager but my job was not upgraded to it.

Asked on March 13, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Don't believe everything you read in the internet--or at least understand when it' not applicable. First, if you sign a contract, which is what a severance agreement is, the specific terms of *that* contract control; it doesn't matter what happens in 99 out of a 100 other contracts, what matters is what *your* contract says. So if your document says you are giving up the right to sue, you are giving up the right to sue.
Second, while I have not seen the website you refer to, what I suspect it  means, since you reference a "standard" package, is that if your company, like many, gives everyone 2 weeks or 2 weeks plus 1 per year of service without requring the employee to sign anything, that severance would not bar a lawsuit--getting severance itself isn't what stops you from suing, it's contractually obligating yourself to not sue when you sign the severance agreement, so no agreement, no bar.
But companies don't have to offer any severance at all, and if they choose to, can require an employee to give up the right to sue in exchange for it. So if your company is only offering you severance if you sign a severance agreement, and that agreement will stop you from using, if you sign the agreement to get the severance, you can't sue.


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