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I quit my job recently and my last day is next week. Today they emailed me a separation agreement and asked me to sign it. It basically makes it so I can't sue them - I was just wondering, why would I sign it? I've been paid for the last days that I'm working, so signing it basically removes my rights for no benefit. This is in the United States.

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  • Is there a reason you are looking to retain your right to sue them?
    – JasonJ
    Feb 23, 2017 at 15:04
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    IANAL, but I believe that it might be worthless to them even if you did sign it unless there's some 'consideration' involved which benefits you in some way. Consideration under American law
    – brhans
    Feb 23, 2017 at 15:15
  • It can be a tough situation. You don't want to look like a jerk, but you have to ask "Why should I sign it?"
    – Ronnie W
    Feb 23, 2017 at 15:27
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    I'm 99% sure that COBRA benefits can't be made contingent upon signing an agreement. They could be offering to PAY for COBRA, but if you have a new job with benefits, that's not really worth anything. My advice; ask a real lawyer, not the internet.
    – DLS3141
    Feb 23, 2017 at 16:02
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    @DLS3141 I'm 100% sure. COBRA is offered whether you quit or are fired without regard as to whose fault it is. The only exception is gross misconduct which is very rare and would be for something like embezzlement. Even in cases of gross misconduct, companies won't attempt to deny it because they'll have to defend it and that costs money (time) while offering the COBRA doesn't really.
    – Chris E
    Feb 23, 2017 at 16:59

3 Answers 3

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I normally don't sign anything unless there's a benefit for me to do so. If they're offering compensation in return for indemnification, I'd think about it. But other than that, there's no way I'd ever agree to that.

I mostly agree with your question. Why would you sign it? The only reason that it might burn a bridge if you want to use them as a reference, i.e. they could be motivated to say something negative if asked. A simple and legal example is "We wouldn't hire him again and that's all I'm able to say" and that could torpedo a job that had someone ask them that question.

If the place wasn't terrible, that might be enough make me consider signing it. If the company did anything improper (like sexual harassment or discrimination, even if I didn't complain) then I wouldn't.

I would also ask your boss and/or HR why they want you to sign it. Personally, I've never heard of such a thing.

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    +1 it stinks to high heaven. Sounds like the company is afraid of something. I'd agree to sign it, provided I got six month's severance, and a stack of glowing letters of recommendation. Other than that.... nope. Feb 23, 2017 at 20:49
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There is no reason you should sign it unless doing so benefits you.

Once I leave a company (get paid in full) I just ignore any and all correspondence that doesn't involve me making something more out of them, whether I left on good terms or not. Ignoring is better than refusing, it leaves your options open. And it leaves the ball in their court to follow up if they really want something badly, in which case they need to make it interesting.

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Depends on the agreement in question and your own situation. Read the details, understand what they are offering you as incentive, make up your own mind.

For example: My own agreement mostly said I agreed to binding arbitration rather than lawsuit and that I promised not to join a class-action lawsuit against the company if one started. After due consideration -- and noting that this did not mean I couldn't give evidence in a class-action suit, only that I couldn't benefit from it if it succeeded --.I decided I could live with that. I didn't especially want to bring suit as an individual anyway, and the few issues that I thought might arise would probably be resolvable even without binding arbitration.

In exchange, I got quite a substantial addition to my severance package -- a good chunk of cash, an extra year of health benefits, and (if I wanted to go right back into the job market) the assistance of an outplacement service in modernizing my resume, filtering job opportunities, and a bunch of webinars on jobhunting and/or retirement planning skills. I'm guessing total value on the order of US$40k.

So for me that was an easy decision once I understood the trade-offs. But it did mean having to read the fine print carefully, and if I'd had any doubt it would have been worth having an employment lawyer sanity-check it.

Don't let them buy you too cheaply -- but don't let resentment keep you from accepting a good deal if one is being offered. Thus does not have to be a zero-sum game; if it's done right, both sides can come out ahead.

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  • Grr, at myself. Need to proofread much better when typing on the phone.
    – keshlam
    Apr 27, 2023 at 15:50

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