If an employer plans to let a long term employee go, can it ask the employee to sign off that they won’t pursue legal action in order to get severance?

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If an employer plans to let a long term employee go, can it ask the employee to sign off that they won’t pursue legal action in order to get severance?

My fiance has been an employee of a company for 18 years. Within the last 2 years a new boss came to the company and has been riding her to the point that she is just forcing my fiance out. While reports show that goals were not always met, it is shown that it is not being followed equally for all employees. She is now 40 and a higher paid person and definitely this contributes to why they are doing it. She works in a state which is a right to work state. Do you know of any recourse she may have?

Asked on January 18, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Employers are not obligated to provide severance, unless an employee has a contract which guarantees him or her severance. Since it is voluntary on the part of companies to provide severance, they can--and usually do--put conditions on it, such as signing a liability release.

If your fiance believes that she has been discriminated against on the basis of her age (40), she could choose to not sign the agreement, not accept the severance, and instead pursue legal action. She should probably consult quickly with an employment attorney before doing anything--the lawyer can advise her as to the likely strength and value of her case, so she can make an informed decision about whether to sue or whether to sign the release and get severance.


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