Got laid offf, was promised in writing from owner that I would be paid a severence package and have yet to receive a penny?

UPDATED: Sep 4, 2016

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Got laid offf, was promised in writing from owner that I would be paid a severence package and have yet to receive a penny?

Was owed money and have not heard or seen any money, what should I do?

Asked on September 4, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You most likely can't do anything: a promise, even a written promise, is not an enforceable contract unless you provided "consideration," or something of value, for it. Without consideration, a promise is not legally binding and may be reneged upon at will. IF you provided some additional work or consulting services in exchange for severance (e.g. you were laid off, but the owner offered you severance if you'd train your replacement, which you did), or if you signed an agreement in which you gave up your right to sue in exchange for severance, then you would likely have an enforceable contract and could sue the employer for "breach of contract" if, after you did your part (i.e. after you provided consideration), the employer did not pay the severance.
However, your question does not indicate that you did anything for the severance. If the owner promised it to you, but you did not have to do anything for it, then instead of an enforceable contract, this was just a "gratuitous" promise, and the owner can legally go back on it.

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