Blog : management

Negotiating Severance Packages: Parachute or Free Fall?

brad_yamauchiBy Brad Yamauchi, Partner

You probably have read about “golden parachute” severance packages that pay millions of dollars to corporate executives, even when they are fired for poor performance or a scandal. Why is that? Can you get a severance package if you voluntarily or involuntarily leave your job?

I have negotiated severance packages for hundreds of clients in my 33-plus years of representing all types of employees, from hourly or low income workers to high income executives. This is a complex area of practice that requires a broad range of knowledge and negotiation skills.

To be effective, I must be familiar with all possible legal claims and damages, evaluate stock options and other types of compensation schemes, understand the economic situations of the company and the client, understand client goals, determine the motives of corporate management, HR and their attorneys, and have enough experience to know industry standards and expectations, among other considerations.

No two negotiations are the same. I need to be creative and assertive in giving the company a reason to offer my client a significant severance package that may include continuing pay and health benefits, a lump sum of cash, stock or stock options, retirement contributions, good references, purging negative records and/or work as an independent contractor. If a severance agreement is worked out, it requires that my client waive any and all legal claims (except workers compensation). Confidentiality and an agreement not to apply for jobs at that employer are also common terms in a severance agreement.

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