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Hi everyone I find myself in an interesting position and would appreciate any help. The basics are that I am being laid off and offered a severance package. The difficulty is that in July I was presented with a letter on company letter head that outlined the details of the severance and reason for the lay off. Since being presented with this document the employer has come up with a new document that offers the same amount of money but now includes the requirement of signing away my rights.

So the question I have is: as all parties accepted the terms of the first notice, can it be removed and changed? Do I have to sign the new contract which waives all of my rights?

My understanding is that the first offer that is in writing should be honored and the second offer means nothing.

closed as off-topic by Joe Strazzere, Philipp, Jan Doggen, yochannah, Michael Grubey Oct 6 '14 at 7:47

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    I should talk to a lawyer. Not to ask them to negotiate with the company on your behalf, but just to get their opinion on the legalities of the case. – Jenny D Sep 28 '14 at 7:35
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    what "rights" are they asking you to "sign" away? – Pepone Sep 28 '14 at 21:31
  • What rights are you giving away? If you are an employee your not giving up much. – Martin York Oct 1 '14 at 4:10
  • Rights being given away include: not being able to apply for any open position with the organization or its partners ever, not being able to claim unemployment (forced to resign rather than be laid off), not able to file any case for unfair/unlawful termination, not able to make any claim for any benefit payment that may be owed. Basically I am being asked to release the employer from any and all responsibilities and also agree not to claim any benefit that may cause them cost. – user27358 Oct 2 '14 at 12:55
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(Please note that I am not a lawyer. If in doubt, I would recommend contacting a legal professional. You also omit the country so it is hard to give specifics. I will assume a western, English speaking country like the USA, UK or Australia.)

Have you signed the first document (contract)? If so, in theory, it becomes a legally binding contract between you and your organization. However, in practice, the organization is likely to do as it pleases. If you have not signed the first contract, the company can withdraw it and present a new contract.

If you have signed the first contract and you fight or get a lawyer involved, chances are the organization will either (1) terminate your employment immediately and/or (2) pay you the statutory minimums. These redundancy contracts usually pay more than the minimum and lawyers are expensive. Therefore, it is probably best to take what you can and put your energy into finding new employment. Look at it from the organization's point of view: paying you a few extra week's salary is much cheaper than a court case or bad press.

A better idea is to talk to someone in HR in a different organization. They can give you insight into the process and common practice. Also be aware that no one should be pressured into signing. The organization can ask for signed contracts by a date but this should be at least a few days to give people time to think and get independent advice.

Note that, if you are being exploited, the best thing you can do is talk to others in the same situation. One person can be ignored. A whole team or department creates a headache. The contract usually states that you cannot share the dollar amounts but you can ask if others are happy.

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In the US, the "you are not going to sue us for more" clause is standard practice for severance agreements. If it wasn't in the first contract, that's probably an honest oversight on their part which the try to address with the second version.

Depending on local laws and the exact wording of the first offer you may have a legal opening here. Only a qualified lawyer can assess this. However the question is: why would you do this and what are you trying to achieve? If you take the package and then sue the money for more, the company will in all likelihood fight back hard. Even worse: if word gets around that you sued your employer it will be almost impossible for you to find a job.

  • MM my view would be "well as you have admitted wrong doing then I will have to get the lawyers involved to work out what compensation I am due" – Pepone Sep 28 '14 at 21:33

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