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Forcing Employees To Sign A Waiver At Termination From Downsizing

On Lawyer & Legal » Employment & Labor Law

7,778 words with 9 Comments; publish: Tue, 03 Jun 2008 19:32:00 GMT; (80062.01, « »)

My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: OHIO

I have a question on terminating an employee. When a company terminates employees due to downsizing, and offers employees a severence package, can the employer FORCE the employee to sign a waiver (if they don't sign the waiver they don't get severence package) stating that the employee will NOT consult with a lawyer concerning the termination OR NOT consult the media. I am wondering if this is legal and done with companies.

To me it doesn't seem quite right. Because if an employee feels that they have been let go wrongfully, then they should be able to check with a lawyer concerning the terminiation, to see if it was done fairly.

Also, apparently the waiver states that the employee can NEVER, at any time, even after the severance package is received, and the person is no longer employed, contact a lawyer or the media concerning the situation.

Just wondering if this is normal practice when companies downsize.

This is concerning a company that is doing downsizing, they are terminating employees using no rhyme or reason. Seniority doesn't matter. What does seem to matter is how many years you have been there and what it is costing the company to keep you as an employee. Many have been "forced" into accepting a severance package. What doesn't seem fair in all of this is that up until this past January thru March, they were still hiring, yet they will "eliminate" an employee that has been with the company for 25 years, and keep the new hires.

Thanks for any input on this.

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  • 9 Comments
    • How old are you? There is a reason I'm asking and it directly relates to the answer to your question.
      #1; Wed, 04 Jun 2008 06:20:00 GMT
    • I recommend you take the agreement to an attorney.

      Having said that, what you are mentioning is pretty standard severence boilerplate.

      No state requires the payment of severance of any kind. Therefore, if a company is awarding severance, they can ask for a contractual waiver in return.

      If you don't want to sign, it is completely legal to withhold the severance payment and still let you go.

      #2; Tue, 03 Jun 2008 19:44:00 GMT
    • When you are offered a severance package, it is normal practice to ask you to sign a "waiver" agreement.

      As suggested, you might want to have an attorney review the waiver before signing.

      #3; Tue, 03 Jun 2008 20:11:00 GMT
    • While I do understand that a company is not obligated to offer severence packages, I do not understand how they can "bully" you (and that is what I consider it to be) to NOT contact an attorney and see that things were done legally. When people who have been with a company for excess of 20 to 30 years are let go and there are no reasons stated other than simply "your position isn't needed anymore", while someone with less than a year or two of seniority keeps their job, to me that is discrimination.

      It would be my guess that there is no opportunity to have an attorney read the waiver, I am assuming the employees are given 1 chance to sign it and that is it.

      It is so sad that our country and employer work ethics have came to this. There was a day when a company "wanted" their employees to stay and be a part of the business indefinately. That has all changed the last few years. There is no job security anymore. People can commit to a job, be a super worker, and never know if tomorrow is it for them.

      #4; Wed, 04 Jun 2008 03:45:00 GMT
    • Unless Texas has something different in their state laws, the 21 days is for those over 40 unless it is a mass layoff, in which case the 45 days applies. Does Texas have its own version of the ADEA and/or WARN?
      #5; Wed, 04 Jun 2008 08:59:00 GMT
    • Quoting
      While I do understand that a company is not obligated to offer severence packages, I do not understand how they can "bully" you (and that is what I consider it to be) to NOT contact an attorney and see that things were done legally. When people who have been with a company for excess of 20 to 30 years are let go and there are no reasons stated other than simply "your position isn't needed anymore", while someone with less than a year or two of seniority keeps their job, to me that is discrimination.

      It would be my guess that there is no opportunity to have an attorney read the waiver, I am assuming the employees are given 1 chance to sign it and that is it.

      It is so sad that our country and employer work ethics have came to this. There was a day when a company "wanted" their employees to stay and be a part of the business indefinately. That has all changed the last few years. There is no job security anymore. People can commit to a job, be a super worker, and never know if tomorrow is it for them.

      Then refuse to sign and they will refuse to pay your severance. You are then free to obtain the services of an attorney.
      #6; Wed, 04 Jun 2008 06:47:00 GMT
    • It is my understanding that valid releases (at least in Texas) must include the following:

      (1) 21 days for the employee to consider (if the employee is under 40 years of age) whether to sign or not

      (2) 45 days for the employee to consider (if the employee is over 40 -- from federal ADEA laws) whether to sign or not

      (3) A statement advising the person signing the waiver to seek legal counsel about the waiver or before signing the waiver.

      (4) A revokation period from the day the waiver is signed -- ours is 7 days. The severance payment is not paid until the 8th day after the employee signed.

      I think most of these are to protect the company from the employee coming back and saying they signed it under duress or were forced to sign the waiver.

      However, the employer CAN refuse to pay severance if you refuse to sign the waiver like others have stated. The question then becomes would the waiver hold up in the court of law. Only a lawyer in your state will be able to tell you the pros and cons of signing....and what rights you would be signing away based on the waiver.

      #7; Wed, 04 Jun 2008 07:26:00 GMT
    • The person in question is 55, been with the company excess of 35 years. Excellent work history and evaluations. Although this person has not lost their job yet, we are very concerned because of how the company is doing things. We just want to be prepared and know the correct steps to take should it happen.

      It does not just affect this person. There have been so many that were offered the severence package. If you refused, you were put to the packing line, or just let go.

      Many people this company has been targeting are those close or near retirement age, and those who have been with the company for many years and have built up vacation time. They offer you a severence package to leave. If you choose not to take the package, they put you on the packing line (where nobody wants to be) in hopes that you will get pissed and quit, or else simply let you go.

      Any input to this will be greatly appreciated.

      Thank you.

      #8; Wed, 04 Jun 2008 09:22:00 GMT
    • Discrimination based on seniority does not violate the federal EEO laws. However, discrimination based on age (40 & +) is prohibited by the ADEA. The ADEA proscribes specific requirements for valid waivers such as the one you describe. I see a couple of potential problems with the one you describe. If your employer has employees who are 40 and over who are affected by the downsizing and who may be required to sign the waiver, I suggest that you consult with the EEOC to see if the waiver meets the requirements of the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990, an amendment to the ADEA.
      #9; Wed, 04 Jun 2008 06:45:00 GMT