Waiver of Right to Sue after Termination
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What Is a Waiver of a Right to Sue?
After an employee is fired or downsized, many companies have the employee sign a waiver giving up the right to sue for wrongful termination. Signing a waiver means that the employee no longer has any legal claim against the company and cannot recover in court. In exchange for the waiver, the employee receives some benefit in return, typically a severance package.
Are Waivers Enforceable?
Whether a waiver is enforceable is not always clear and will depend on the specific circumstances of each case. To be unenforceable, the employee will usually have to show that the waiver was signed under duress or as a result of some other wrongful action by the employer. If you have signed a waiver you should speak to a lawyer to determine whether it is enforceable.
Can an Employer Withhold My Paycheck or a Severance Package If I Don't Sign a Waiver?
An employer cannot withhold a final paycheck because the employee has done the work and is legally entitled to be paid for it. However, employers are not legally required to provide a severance package. Because of this, the employer probably can withhold severance pay if you refuse to sign a waiver.
In some situations, an employer may be required to offer severance pay, such as:
- an employee has a written contract stating that severance will be paid;
- a promise that employees would receive severance pay is in an employee handbook;
- the company has a history of paying severance to other employees in your position;
- an oral promise was made that the employer would pay you severance.
However, in many of these situations the requirement will only be that the employer offer severance with all the typical requirements, including the signing of a waiver.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you have been terminated and asked to sign a waiver, you should speak to a lawyer before doing so. An experienced employment attorney can advise you of any claims you may have and help you determine whether to pursue those claims or to accept any offered severance package. If you have already signed a waiver, a lawyer can determine whether the waiver is enforceable. A lawyer can also represent you in court should you choose to file a lawsuit.
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Last Modified: 12-12-2014 04:31 PM PST
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