Has Your Company Announced Layoffs? How to Negotiate a Better Severance Package Without Burning Bridges

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According to employment attorney Kirk Nemer, "getting laid off is rarely something you can control. But what you can control is how you leave a company -- and, most importantly, the size and terms of your severance package." In a new podcast on Total Picture Radio, this legal expert and employee advocate outlines important information for negotiating severance packages. "It's never take it or leave it. First: take a deep breath and second, don't sign anything," Nemer cautions.

it's a big mistake to think, 'Oh, my company's in financial trouble, so there is no severance pay.' Or, 'my company's going bankrupt, so there's no termination benefits.'

Kirk Nemer president of Career Protection, first appeared on Total Picture Radio, (a popular Internet radio talk show), in February 2008. At that time, Career Protection, a national firm assisting professionals with employment negotiations, had published the worst layoff projections in the firm's 21 year history. Their annual projections were, unfortunately, all accurate.

According to Nemer, people need to understand that although massive layoffs are in the headlines way too often, "it's a big mistake to think, 'Oh, my company's in financial trouble, so there is no severance pay.' Or, 'my company's going bankrupt, so there's no termination benefits.' "In fact," Nemer counsels, "severance packages provided during these unfortunate times are usually the most generous."

Kirk Nemer has a background which includes over 20 years as a corporate counsel and vice president of human resources for Fortune 500 and global corporations, giving him a unique perspective when it comes to negotiating employment and severance agreements. Peter Clayton, the producer and host of Total Picture Radio, considers Nemer "the go-to guy when it comes to employment agreements and severance package negotiations. This is all Career Protection does--they are the national experts in this arena."

In the 26 minute in-depth interview, Clayton brought up an important issue, "Kirk, does severance pay affect unemployment compensation?" "Well, that's an interesting question," Nemer responded, "and we're asked that so often, Peter, because many companies illegally try to get people to waive their unemployment compensation. First, severance pay is not considered wages that would count against your right to unemployment benefits. However, with that said, some states have a temporary delay in eligibility for unemployment insurance depending on how the severance pay is paid out."

Another widely misunderstood topic discussed on the program focused on if, and when, employees should consult an employment attorney when offered a severance agreement. Clayton correctly stated that a number of separation and release of claims agreements advise employees to hire an attorney. "A severance offer is just that, an offer, and all offers can be negotiated." Nemer said, "...You don't want to burn your bridges with your employer. The minute your company gets a letter from a law firm you've hired, your case leaves HR and gets turned over to legal. The truth is, Peter, that the best severance deals come from your friendly human resources department."

Nemer observed, "There are many aspects and parts of a severance package. It's not just simply about money and insurance benefits. There's an entire package, and many employees forget this and leave elements and perks off the table when they're negotiating their severance packages." A good example of this," he said, "is cell phones and laptop computers. What is your company going to do with that stuff?" Most likely, pay to have it recycled. They might as well give them to you."

Wrapping up the interview, Clayton commented, "Kirk, I imagine Career Protection is really busy these days." "Very," was the response. Career Protection offers anyone recently laid off a free consultation.

About Career Protection®

A leading national provider of employment negotiations advice, the human resource and legal experts at Career Protection® have protected the careers of professionals throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Career Protection has negotiated hundreds of employment agreements and severance pay packages. Career Protection's HR and employment law experts have previously served as Vice Presidents of Human Resources, Directors of Human Resources, Corporate Counsel/Attorneys, or Recruiters for many Fortune 500 and Global Corporations.


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Peter Clayton

Kelly LaMarche
Career Protection
(877) 475-2948 ext. 620
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