Our Award-Winning New York Severance Negotiation Lawyer has counseled former employees of Mount Kisco Medical Group (MKMG) who were laid off, had their positions eliminated or who were adversely affected by disciplinary action. Recently, MKMG announced it was laying off 109 workers and reportedly offered them a minimum of six weeks of severance pay following a 90 day notice period. MKMG was established 70 years ago and reportedly has approximately 2,700 employees. It is one of the largest employers in the Westchester area. If you or someone you know was selected for a layoff or otherwise terminated, contact our NY Severance Package Attorney to discuss the situation and determine available rights and options.
Losing a job and an income can be a traumatic process for a family and understanding the legalese in a severance agreement that is presented during this process can be difficult. In general, an employee should not sign a severance agreement without speaking to an experienced employment attorney. The severance agreement is typically written primarily for the employer’s benefit – not yours and often contains many post-employment obligations and restrictions on you. Below are some reasons why you should have an attorney review a severance agreement.
REASON ONE: WAIVER OF CLAIMS: In general, severance agreements include a General Release provision, which means that you are agreeing to release your former employer from almost all legal claims – known or unknown. Depending on your circumstances, you may have a claim that is worth more than the amount of severance offered. It is important to have an attorney to evaluate your specific situation and determine if you are waiving a valuable claim. Although they are certain claims that cannot be waived like filing a claim for unemployment insurance benefits, a separation agreement provides assurances to a company that you will not file a claim regarding your employment for money damages against it. In general, you cannot sign a severance agreement and sue your former employer for money damages based on conduct that occurred prior to your execution of the agreement.
REASON TWO: NON-COMPETITION AND NON-SOLICITATION OBLIGATIONS: A severance package agreement can include provisions that limit your ability to compete with your former employer and/or solicit your former employer’s clients and employees. This is sometimes referred to as a “golden handcuffs” provision. This provision may seem innocuous but it can harm your ability to find new employment. Sometimes these provisions are merely recitations of provisions that were previously provided to you and agreed by you; however, some employers include these part of a severance agreement. It is important to understand their potential impact and determine if the restrictions are reasonable under your circumstances. A non-compete provision is not applicable to every employee and the reasonableness of the geographic and time limitation vary by circumstances. A common misconception is that non-compete agreements are not enforceable at all and are always thrown out by courts – that is not true. Courts have enforced non-competition agreements that are reasonably drafted – this is a fact specific analysis.
REASON THREE: TERMINATION OF HEALTH INSURANCE: One of the leading reasons that individuals go bankrupt or face serious financial hardships is result of incurring high medical bills while not having health insurance. Losing your job can be daunting enough but not having insurance can be a risky proposition for individuals and their families. In general, coverage under your former employer’s healthcare plan terminates on your last day of employment. However, in some cases, it can be extended to the last day of the month you were employed – this depends on your employer’s policy. You should receive written notification stating the exact date of termination of your coverage and your right to continue health insurance coverage at your expense pursuant to COBRA or state law equivalent. Depending on your circumstances and whether you have a claim, your former employer may agree to pay your health insurance premiums after your termination. Some employers will agree to pay your COBRA payments during the severance period while others may be amendable to alternative scenarios. It depends on the facts.
REASON FOUR: EFFECT ON UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE BENEFITS: You may be entitled to certain payments even if you do not sign the severance agreement. Moreover, the severance agreement can affect your ability to collect unemployment insurance benefits, which can be critical in this time. It is imperative that you understand your rights and obligations if you sign the severance agreement and if you do not. In addition, based on recent changes to state law severance payments can affect your ability to collect unemployment insurance benefits.
REASON FIVE: NO RE-EMPLOYMENT PROVISION: Depending the circumstances, a severance contract can include a No Re-employment provision stating that you cannot apply for re-employment with the Company and its affiliates (which are often not defined and can be vague). Depending on the size of your former employer, you may be prevented from working for a significant number of companies. Again, that is not ideal when you are looking for new employment.
The above issues are just a few reasons why you should review a severance agreement with an attorney immediately. Keep in that most agreements have a deadline for you to accept or reject them – the deadline may be 45 days, 21 days or a shorter time period – you should consult experienced counsel immediately to ensure a proper consideration process.
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