What are my rights ifI was the only one laid off and I’m 52 years old?

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What are my rights ifI was the only one laid off and I’m 52 years old?

Recently laid off  due to a reduction in force; I was the only person in the layoff. I was told that the decision was not performance related but based upon the fact the business was not doing well and I was one of the higher paid. I am 52 years old and I worked there for 2 years. They want me to sign a release in order to get 3 weeks severance. Can I get a better severance package?

Asked on January 17, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

Christopher LeClerc / LeClerc & LeClerc LLP

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Terminations based on the category of "highest" wages can be code for age discrimination, since it is usually the more senior employees that are making the highest wages.  You should consult with an attorney, quickly.

Aryeh Leichter / Leichter Law Firm

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You might be able to negotiate a better severance package but know that the company is not legally obligated to give you any severance unless it is the company’s policy to do so.  It does not appear from your message that this is the case.  Employers offer severance agreements in exchange for releases of claims to avoid the inherent and often substantial costs of having to defend wrongful termination claims.  It stands to reason, therefore, that the stronger your basis is for a wrongful termination lawsuit, the more willing the company should be to increase your severance package.  Before demanding a larger severance in exchange for your signed release of claims, you should consult an attorney who can assess the strength of any potential causes of action you have against the company.  If you do have viable claims, you certainly do not want to forfeit your rights to pursue them for a couple of weeks’ salary.

 

All the  best,

Ari Leichter 

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

What I think that you are getting at is that you feel that your being laid off was due to your age and not your salary level.  Is that correct?  Then that would be illegal.  Age discrimination is against the law.  It may be difficult to prove, though,  if you really are one of the highest paid and one of the newest employees.  It may very well be a good cover up and unfortunate for you that you fall in to these categories and are the age you are.  Look at the rest of the employees around you that were not laid off. compare yourself to them and see where you fit in to the graph, so to speak.  If you still feel like you were singled out then seek legal consultation.  How you choose to play the severance game is really your choice but it can never hurt to ask for more these days.  Good luck.


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