Age Discrimination Meets California Severance Agreements

Layoffs and terminations can be stressful for any worker but incredibly nerve-wracking for more senior employees. Things can get challenging when these same employees are served a severance agreement. While these severance plans cushion the conclusion of a position with some financial compensation and benefits, they are usually filled with complicated legal terms and conditions that can significantly impact your future. In California, where vigorous legislative measures combat age discrimination, understanding the intricacies of severance agreements is critical and essential for senior workforce members.

Does the law address age discrimination?

Both state and federal regulations provide extensive defense against age discrimination. Employers are prohibited from demoting, retaliating against, denying employment, or terminating individuals based on age. Further, denying privileges or benefits due to an employee’s age is unlawful, including aspects like on-the-job training, promotions, and compensation.

It’s important to recognize the federal laws, such as the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and state legislative measures like California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), that were constructed to shield aging workers from these discriminatory practices. The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA), a vital piece of legislation, further supports these protections. It ensures that employees 40 and up make any rights waiver voluntarily and knowingly, particularly in the context of severance agreements.

Unpacking the Purpose of Severance

Severance agreements, often dubbed separation agreements, materialize as lifelines in the wake of workforce reductions and layoffs. While they may promise financial reprieve and continued benefits, these agreements invariably entail relinquishing legal claims against your employer.

Components of Severance Packages

Severance agreement plans typically encompass the following:

  • Financial payment in the form of a lump sum or continued salary and benefits.
  • A continuation of benefits, like healthcare coverage, for a distinct period.
  • Non-disparagement clauses prevent the employee from speaking out against or making negative remarks about their employer.
  • Release of claims, wherein employees may waive the potential to file or pursue legal claims like discrimination or wrongful termination.

Before You Write, Know Your Rights

When signing a severance agreement, they may find themselves in a precarious position, weighing the benefits of financial compensation against the potential loss of essential rights. While it is tempting to say yes to such offers without hesitation, taking the time to understand their implications is critical.

  • Understanding Discrimination Claims: Discrimination in the workplace can take many forms, including age-based discrimination. Before signing a severance agreement, individuals should carefully assess whether they have experienced any discriminatory treatment during their employment tenure. If age discrimination is suspected, it’s essential to consult with an age discrimination lawyer to explore potential legal remedies.
  • Evaluate of Wrongful Termination Matters: Wrongful termination occurs when an employee is dismissed from their job, violating state or federal laws. More senior workers, in particular, may face wrongful termination based on their age. Before waiving your rights via a severance arrangement, you should seek legal advice and review the validity of a potential wrongful termination case.
  • Consideration of Class Action Lawsuits: In some instances, employees may have grounds to participate in class-action lawsuits against the former employer. These lawsuits often involve allegations of systemic issues like discrimination and other illegal employment practices. Once you agree to a severance package, you may waive the right to participate in such cases.
  • Preservation of Non-Waivable Rights: While severance agreements may include clauses requiring employees to waive certain rights, it is essential to note that not all rights can be waived. For example, workers’ compensation benefits (WCB) and unemployment insurance benefits (UIB) are typically non-negotiable and cannot be waived through a severance agreement. Individuals should be vigilant in protecting these rights, even in the face of pressure to sign a deal with their employer quickly.

Don’t be Fearful of Negotiations

Before accepting a severance package, an individual should assess all available options and consider negotiation for additional benefits. These could include extended insurance coverage, outplacement services, or even a more favorable tax treatment when it comes to the severance payout.

Age discrimination lawyers can provide valuable insight into the fairness of the offer and help individuals make informed decisions about their rights.

Seeking Legal Reinforcement

Given the weight severance agreements can carry through their restrictions and effects, it is pivotal to protect your rights. Thus, it is recommended that you consult with a skilled San Bernardino age discrimination attorney. Age discrimination attorneys can review agreements, pinpoint the more restrictive text within them, address any concerns, and negotiate better employee terms.

Moreover, regarding age discrimination and severance agreements, you need to be informed of the laws most applicable and the many legal ramifications. You must tread carefully when facing a severance agreement, as it is crafted by a legal professional representing your employer’s interests and well-being first and foremost. If you have questions or need assistance negotiating a fair severance package, contact an experienced age discrimination lawyer in San Bernardino for a confidential and free consultation, or call us today at 909-884-6451.