Have you been presented with a severance offer? If so, you may be planning to try to negotiate a better severance. And you may be wondering if you should mention, as leverage, potential legal rights. After all, perhaps you found some strong potential legal claims via Google searches, via reviewing government websites, etc.
The question: So why not mention those legal rights to the employer, and use them to negotiate?
One answer: Because most legal rights that “look” correct to a given employee are in fact incorrect. (Most employees, especially smart ones, badly misdiagnose their own potential legal rights).
Another answer: Unless you have an attorney, the employer is unlikely to take your legal posturing seriously.
You are probably not experienced with lawsuits or litigation. Employers are often experienced litigants. For those that are not, they usually communicate with someone who is, i.e. a corporate employment attorney, before they present a severance offer. So, chances are, your employer is legally- prepared. Informed.
And when an employer in that position hears an employee talking about legal rights (especially misdiagnosed legal rights), they figure the employee is blowing smoke. If the employee is serious about doing something about their rights, then he or she would have hired an attorney.
If you plan to negotiate a severance agreement, consider the value of an attorney’s letterhead. That letterhead alone signifies you are approaching the negotiation professionally, and seriously. When an employer sees an attorney’s letterhead and name, they take matters more seriously. Most will quickly do internet research of the attorney and his or her website. In my case, a employer reviewing my website would see example cases I have handled in court and other legal forums, and would see I have enforced the legal rights I am talking about during severance negotiations. It’s not just theory. It’s not blowing smoke.
We lawyers obviously have more going for us than our letterhead and websites. But those things reflect some real qualities that an employee (negotiating alone) simply does not have. Legal experience. Knowledge. Credibility.
So if you plan to negotiate your severance based on perceived legal leverage, consider getting an attorney.