Refusing to Resign: Can HR Change Severance Offer?

Question: My employer is terminating me for poor performance, although I reviewed my HR file last week and there was nothing negative in it. Originally, HR offered me two different severance packages: (a) if I resigned, I’d get about $4,000 more in benefits and severance. (b) If I stayed and got fired, I would lose the extra $4,000.

Then HR said that both packages would be the same, no matter if I resigned or was fired. Because I fear being turned down for unemployment insurance if I resign, I told HR I would not resign. However, now HR is again changing the package.

My question is: do I have any rights to sue the company for “retaliation” against me because I refused to resign?

Vic, Pennsylvannia

Answer: There is no general entitlement to severance, and no right to any certain level of severance. That means that you and HR are free to negotiate how much severance you can get, and under what conditions. There are laws that say an employer can’t “retaliate” against you for your taking certain actions – such as filing a discrimination complaint, or insisting on your legal rights. But there is no law that says that the company changing its offer of severance to you, or the conditions of that offer, is illegal. However, suing is not the only thing you can do: consider writing a very respectful letter to the company’s Board of Directors, or some of its owners if it’s a smaller company, and telling them what happened. It only costs a stamp, and can be far more effective than you’d think.

Deadlines are important; don’t let your severance deadline expire. To help you ask for more time, we offer our Model Request for More Time to Review/Sign Your Severance Agreement. It shows you “What to Say and How to Say It.”™ To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

My Best,
Al Sklover

P.S.: You might be interested in our Master 94-Point Severance Negotiation Checklist, to give you the peace of mind and freedom from worry that you forgot to raise or entertain certain points of discussion and negotiation. To obtain copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

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