Discharged or Offered a Severance? Don’t Drive Down a New Road Before Ensuring it’s the Right Direction

Many employees who are discharged or offered a severance will, understandably, research internet information about what options they may have.  For example, it is common for a discharged employee to research internet information about legal complaints, such as discrimination or wage complaints. For workers offered a severance agreement, it is common for them to research internet information about what a “typical” or fair severance payment may be, what leverage may exist to negotiate better terms with the employer, etc.

Many workers then rely on such internet research to take various actions, e.g. they go on to file a discrimination complaint, or try to negotiate better severance terms with their former employer, using the internet information they reviewed.

Once action is taken, the employee has significantly changed his or her situation– for good or for bad.

I liken this to taking a road trip. Once you have driven down a certain road for awhile, you have committed yourself to a journey. If you failed to plan appropriately beforehand, that trip could lead to big problems. For example, if you fail to research or identify how long or how much time the trip would be, you may fail to fuel up your vehicle sufficiently, and could later find yourself stranded on the road. And associated with that unforeseen bad consequence come towing costs, lost time, and other headaches. Alternatively, you may take off on a trip and find yourself in a long drive down a road to nowhere– or, even worse, a road to an unpleasant destination– when other roads (unbeknownst to you) would have been far more promising.

Before you take action with regard to a discharge or severance, consider whether you’re truly going to head down the right road.  To determine that, you’d need to have answers to these questions:

  • How long will the chosen road/option be and take to complete? How do you know (e.g. have you learned of that option’s timing and proces from a credible source, such as an attorney experienced with that option)?
  • What specific good and bad result(s) could occur from taking that road? How do you know?
  • What other roads/options exist, and what specific good and bad result(s) could occur from taking those roads? How do you know?

Educating yourself about options is a good thing. Especially if the information is free. That includes talking to an employee rights attorney (yes, like me :)) who offers a free initial evaluation of a discharge or severance matter.  But once you take action, you may have committed yourself to processes, consequences and/or costs that you did not initially anticipate.

As an attorney, I get inquiries from workers at many stages of their journey, and I can usually offer at least some help no matter what. But the most effective time for you to capitalize on legal advice is to obtain it before you take action. Too often, I get inquiries from folks who have (again, understandably) traveled far down the wrong road. Sometimes, a detour– and decent trip– is still possible. But rarely does the same degree of potential exist as for those who seek direct legal advice before committing to a given path.


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