In New York, employees are generally employed “at will,” meaning that they can be terminated for any reason or no reason at all – with limited exceptions. Those exceptions are generally confined to situations where an employee is protected by a contract or has a claim of wrongful discharge that is covered by the discrimination laws. But in handling severance negotiations and agreements, practical considerations, as well as the legal landscape, play a big part in the negotiation strategy.
At Pechman Law Group, we have experience representing executives in hundreds of separation cases across all types of industries. We have negotiated employment separation agreements for CEOs of companies and Managing Directors on Wall Street, but also often review separation agreements that are provided to employees in mass layoff situations. In general, the law does not require employers to provide employees with severance pay. Indeed, it is a surprise to most employees that no matter how long you worked for an organization, there is no federal or state law that requires an employer to provide severance pay. But, but, but… that does not mean there are no ways to negotiate an acceptable exit package for our clients.
Our approach to negotiating separation agreements focuses on the practical aspects of employment relationships, as well as examining types of practical leverage, if any, available for the negotiations. Sometimes our role is simply to stay in the background and guide our clients; other situations may call for us to aggressively advocate a legal claim. Either way, we see our primary goal as protecting the reputation of our client and obtaining the most favorable economic package that is possible under the circumstances, so that our client may move on.