“Can we ask for a previously-offered severance package that was better than this one?”

Question: First, thanks for writing this blog. It is a relief to find such a good source of information in times like these.

My husband was laid off last week from his job at an oil field service company, and was offered a severance package of 26 weeks of base pay, plus eight more weeks of “enhanced severance” if he signed a “waiver and release.” He is 55 with 28 years and eight months of service.

Just this February, the company had offered early retirement packages to employees who were 55 years old at that time, and my husband just missed the cutoff by a few months – he turned 55 in April. The February severance package offered a full year of salary, which comes to about 30% better than he’s being offered now.

Is there any way we can “exchange” the present severance offer for the one offered in February? He missed that deadline by only two months.

Houma, Louisiana

Answer: The situation you describe happens to more people than you might think: missing a “cutoff” by just a few months of age, or a few months of service, and thus losing out on a whole lot of severance.

From what you have described to me, I don’t see any “legal” right or “legal” claim for your husband to raise. But there’s more to life than “legal” matters, and there are more arguments, claims, and appeals than “legal” ones. What I mean to say is that there are “moral,” “decent,” and “fair” claims, and I think he should raise them. After 29 years – one half of his life – your husband has earned a little more than the minimum that he is permitted by law. Think of it this way: In your husband’s 28+ years on the job, did he once ever say to his bosses, “I won’t do that; it’s not legally required.” I doubt it. In fact, I’m sure of it.

In our blog’s Newsletter / Q & A library, in the section entitled “Benefits, Pensions and Perq’s,” you’ll find a Newsletter entitled “12 Steps to Negotiating a Bridge to Retirement.”  To read this Newsletter [click here]. I think it will help you.

Your husband should not be afraid to write to the CEO, or the Board of Directors, laying out his view. So long as it is expressed respectfully, he shouldn’t worry about negative consequences. The letter should calmly, respectfully and succinctly lay out what happened, and what he thinks should happen, instead. You would be surprised how effective such an appeal can be.

Good Luck!

Best, Al Sklover

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