Is it legal for an employer to offer you 3 weeks severance in writing but later call you and say they changed their mind?

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Is it legal for an employer to offer you 3 weeks severance in writing but later call you and say they changed their mind?

Due to a reorg a position I held at a company was dramatically altered. I decided to resign and move on I was never given a release or any sort of legal document to sign on my way out. However, I was told I’d be paid for the rest of the week I resigned on a Monday and in addition my boss told me they would be nice enough to pay me for an additional 2 weeks on top of that. I made sure to have that written in my departure letter, which it was. That Friday, I receive a call from HR stating that my boss said there was a

Asked on July 12, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

Yes, they can legally do this. The promise they made you was not a contract, even in in writing, because a contract requires that each side give the other side something of value or which the other side wants--called "consideration"--to bind the agreement and make it enforceable. You were not, however, giving them anything in exchange for the severance; it was therefore not a contract, but a "gratuitious," or "free," promise. However, the law only enforces contracts, not non-contractual or gratuitious promises. So they could legally change their mind and you cannot enforce the earlier promise.


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