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If your boss is offering you a severance, it is likely because you have lost your job. On the other hand, you may be hearing rumors about staff reductions and wondering how to get a fair severance if your job is on the chopping block. In this uncertain economic climate, losing your job is not unusual. That does not make it any easier to get by with no income, and a severance package may be just the thing to tide you over until you can find work again.

As enticing as it may be to accept a severance check after losing your job, there are many things to consider. Employers seldom hand out severance packages without some trade-off, and you would be wise to understand the circumstances surrounding your termination and what your boss may be asking of you in exchange for a severance.

Many variables

A generous boss may offer an employee an amount of money intended to sustain the employee after a discharge. Not every employee receives a severance, and your company may have very clear policies in its handbook, which you would be wise to review. In the event that your boss calls you into the conference room to offer you a severance, you should know what to expect.

There is no set amount of money an employer must offer, but it typically depends on how long you have been with the company, among other factors. In addition to money, your employer may offer to extend your health insurance, provide a letter of recommendation, assist with your job search or provide other benefits. You may have the option to negotiate for more, depending on the situation.

Protect your rights

An agreement that unfairly benefits your employer may deserve a closer look. For example, is your employer asking you to relinquish your right to bring a lawsuit for some serious violation of your rights, such as sexual harassment or discrimination? Does it restrict you from seeking work in your chosen field? Does it fail to include the payment of any unused sick leave or vacation you have earned?

You do not have to sign or accept a severance agreement on the spot. In fact, it is smart to take it home, read it carefully and ask an attorney to review it with you. Your attorney can examine the details and advise you how California’s employment laws affect your situation. A skilled attorney can counsel you on the most effective ways to maximize your severance package.