When an employee is dismissed, it is often a traumatic and at times overwhelming experience. Unfortunately, many employers add to the already chaotic atmosphere during exit negotiations by making the individual feel rushed to sign documents and accept a severance offer, often times well below their legal entitlements. In my experience, one of the most important things that individual can do is take time to consider their options and seek out professional advice.

Too often I speak with individuals who felt pressured to sign a document and ultimately gave in to an understandably difficult situation. Unfortunately, once the document is signed, the deal is done.

Negotiations: Never Good To Do Alone

When an employee negotiates on their own for severance it can severely limit the amount which a lawyer can recover for them in the future. For example, I recently assisted an individual who worked for their former employer for 18 years and was 55 years of age. Prior to calling me, that individual made an offer to their employer of 12 months’ severance pay.

In reality, they were owed between 18 to 20 months of severance. A very significant difference. While I was able to help increase the original offer, I had to start the negotiations from 12 months’ severance instead of the 20 months’ they were entitled to. In that case, the innocent offer from the employee limited what they were able to recover.

Employers Cannot Set Deadlines

Almost all employers impose a deadline to respond to a severance offer. This is merely a tactic to get the employee to feel pressured to accept less than they are entitled to. It creates a feeling of panic, only adding to the stress of a recently dismissed individual. Worst of all: It is complete nonsense.

In Ontario the law states that you have two years from the date of termination to make a claim. Not a year, a month, or a week – 2 years! Daily I receive calls from individuals who feel they must respond to an inadequate severance offer based on a deadline set by their employer. There is no need to feel any pressure, the employer will not remove the offer, and it is often the case that it should not be accepted anyway.

How can a Lawyer Assist?

There are a number of ways a lawyer can assist an individual who has been terminated. One of the most important ways is saving time. When an employee is terminated, a common question becomes, how long with the process take? It is a lawyer’s duty to move the matter along quickly and provide the individual with a timeline of how long it will take to resolve the matter.

Also, a lawyer should always ensure that you are provided with money that is owed to you right away, such as accrued vacation pay or salary. Another important way which a lawyer assists is by providing you with a realistic settlement outcome and a roadmap for how to get there.