Executive Severance Negotiations

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Executive Severance Negotiations

It is common for executives to receive severance packages when terminated. In return for the severance package, executives are required to sign a severance agreement waiving certain legal rights.


It is important to understand that employers are not required, by law, to offer severance packages. Many states, like Georgia, are considered at-will states, which means that an employer can terminate an employee, without pay,  for any reason or for no reason but not for an illegal reason.


Before an executive accepts a severance package and signs a severance agreement waiving legal rights, the executive should retain legal counsel to review the agreement for a few,  primary, reasons: (1) to assess the circumstances surrounding the termination to ensure it was not an illegal termination; (2) to ensure the executive understands the terms of the agreement, the rights being waived, and to make modifications, if needed; and (3) to consider the amount of severance offered to determine if it is fair based on the circumstances, such as years of service, job position or title, and the amount of time needed to find new employment.


The attorneys at York Bowman Law have the knowledge and experience to conduct a thorough assessment of the circumstances surrounding the termination to determine if the termination was illegal. Why were you terminated? Was the termination based on your protected status such as age, race, color, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, religion,  disability, or genetic information (including family medical history)?  Was the termination retaliatory?   Were you a victim of a hostile work environment? If you believe some of these issues apply, then you may be protected by state and federal law and may not want to waive your potential claims by signing a severance agreement. Our attorneys can help develop a strategy to resolve the potential claim. 


If there are no illegal issues surrounding termination, then our attorneys at York Bowman Law will work with executives to ensure they understand the terms of the agreement and the rights they are waiving, to modify or negotiate the terms of agreement, and to consider the amount of severance pay offered to determine if it is fair based on the circumstances. Some common provisions in separation agreements that our attorneys can help review, modify, and negotiate include:


  • General release – This provision will require a release of the employer from all known or unknown claims. 
  • References – Some severance agreements contain language about how references will be handled and what information will be provided to prospective employers.
  • Non-disparagement – Many severance agreements will bar the executive from making disparaging comments about the former employer, or its products or services. 
  • Restrictive covenants – It is very common for severance agreements to contain restrictive covenants, such as non-competition  and non-solicitation provisions. 
  • Cooperation – Some employers will require the executive to cooperate fully with subsequent legal proceedings or investigations. 
  • Confidentiality – Most severance agreements will require the return of all company files/documents and confidentiality of the company’s business information and the terms of the severance offer. 
  • No re-hire – Some employers will condition severance on an agreement not to seek re-employment with the company in the future.


The attorneys at York Bowman Law have extensive experience drafting and modifying severance agreements for both executives and employers.