Employment Contracts + Severance

Employment Contract Negotiations + Claims

California employees are presumed to be employed “at-will,” meaning they can be terminated at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all, so long as it is not for an illegal reason. Illegal reasons for termination include those based on race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, military and veteran status, whistleblowing, in retaliation for complaining about harassment or discrimination, for taking a protected leave of absence, and other reasons established by law.

However, the at-will presumption can be overcome where the employer expressly limits the permissible grounds for termination (e.g. only for “good cause”) or specifies a precise length of employment in, for example, a contract or collective bargaining agreement. In some cases, the employer’s conduct can overcome the at-will presumption, including the employer’s personnel policies and practices, the employee’s length of service, actions or communications by the employer reflecting assurances of continued employment, practices in the industry in which the employee is engaged, and whether the employee gave independent consideration for the employer’s promise to limit its termination rights.

If you have an employment contract, your rights will be dictated by the terms of the contract as well as statutory and common law. If you believe your employer may have breached your employment contact, Sarnoff + Sarnoff can evaluate whether you may have a potential lawsuit against your employer.

If you are considering signing an employment contract, we can help you understand the terms of the contract, and, if necessary, help you negotiate a better deal.

Severance Negotiations + Disputes

The law does not require California employers to offer severance pay or benefits to terminated or laid-off employees unless there is a contract or collective bargaining agreement that provides otherwise. This is true regardless of how long an employee has worked for the company, how strong his performance was, or the reason for the lay-off.

Nevertheless, some employers do offer employees severance packages upon termination or lay-off. Employees should be aware, however, that employers generally require employees to release all legal claims they may have against the employer in exchange for the severance package. This would include claims for wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and whistleblowing. Thus, if you believe your employer may have terminated you for an illegal reason, you should consult an employment attorney before signing any severance agreement.

If your employment is ending and you want help negotiating a severance package, we can help. If you are considering whether to accept a severance package offered, we can help you evaluate whether you may have a potential lawsuit against your former employer, and help you decide whether to accept the package, negotiate a better deal, or reject it and pursue a lawsuit instead.

Give us a call at (415) 788-0888, email us at info@sarnofflaw.com, or complete our online contact form to find out whether your rights have been violated and if we can help.

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