Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Bargaining Severance Package When Fired

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Bargaining Severance Package When Fired

Article excerpt

If you get called into the boss's office and get the boot, don't just accept the severance offer he slides across the table. If you play your cards right, you can get more money, a continuation of key benefits like health insurance, and extra perks like financial counseling or outplacement help.

The first thing to do is listen to what the boss offers and then ask for time to consider the package, said Susan Silvano, president of Career Management International, an outplacement and training company. Don't lose your cool, even though you're upset, Silvano said. That hurts your negotiating power later on.

Once you get home, think about the package you were offered. Many times, a company will give an employee one to three weeks of pay for every year of service. But you can ask for more. Often, companies agree to pay more money when they get a call from the employee's lawyer, employment lawyer Joe Ahmad said. Recently, Ahmad said, he nearly doubled the severance pay offered to a client who had lost her job. The initial offer was $8,000. After a few letters from Ahmad, the employer upped the offer to $15,000. "They're afraid of getting sued, so they'll pay attention," Ahmad said. Even if you're not going for more money, it's not a bad idea to hire a lawyer to review your severance offer, Ahmad said. Many times, an employer will make a severance offer contingent on a signed waiver from an employee agreeing not to sue. "I've seen lots of times when people had good cases, and they throw it down the drain," Ahmad said. Employees feel desperate, so they sign an agreement even though they have a good sexual harassment or disability discrimination case. Don't just think about money when you're weighing a severance offer. Benefits can be just as important. Ask for outplacement help, suggests Ruth Seiler, owner of Staff Managers, which performs human resource functions for smaller companies. And ask for continuation of your company-paid health insurance, so you don't have to pay the premiums on your own. …

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