How do I enforce a severance agreement?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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How do I enforce a severance agreement?

My employer presented me with a severance agreement to terminate my employment. I was given 21 days to review and signed the agreement. I did not like some of the terms on the agreement so I edited the agreement to state terms I found acceptable. My edits were made by retyping the document. There is nothing crossed out or lined through. I presented this to the employer in a face to face meeting and they signed it without reading it. The bottom of each page has our initials mine and an HR manager. We both signed the last page. Can I enforce the agreement? How do I enforce the agreement? Is there a loop hole they can claim to get out of the agreement. The contract states ‘The validity, interpretation, construction, and performance of this Agreement shall be governed by the laws of the state of…

Asked on August 24, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Generally, you enforce a severance agreement or any other contract by suing; if the other side does not honor its obligations, you file a breach of contract lawsuit and sue for what they owe you under the contract.
Did you tell them you had modified the agreement? If not, it is almost certainly NOT enforceable. You write that you retyped the agreement and did not cross out, line through, etc. anything. That means that unless you told them of your changes--all the changes, specifically--there is no reason they would not have believed it was not the same agreement they had presented to you...but it was not. That makes the agreement void for two reasons:
1) Fraud: you knowingly deceived them as to the contents of the agreement, and fraud voids contracts.
2) No mutual agreement: you and they each believed the contract said something different, but when there is no agreement as to the terms, there is no contract.
If you did point out the changes to them (and can prove that, if they challenge that assertion), then if they signed the changed agreement, they should be bound to it.

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