Two of the most common questions we are asked are “how do I improve my severance agreement?” and “how do I obtain severance?” While every situation is different and there is no simple answer, we have outlined below five of the steps we undertake in a severance negotiation. While you execute this plan, make sure you sign nothing until you read and understand the whole thing and know your rights.

STEP ONE: Decide on Your Goals

This can be one of the most important steps. You need to know what you want so that you can go out and try to get it. This will help you determine your strategy. “More money,” while good, is only part of the answer. Think about the other things you want to accomplish like extension of benefits, stock options, assistance in finding a new job, removal or reduction of non-compete restrictions, a positive reference and peace of mind, just to name a few.

STEP TWO: Gather Your Facts

Think through your employment history – accomplishments and failures – before you begin your severance negotiations. Create a timeline of events. Include names, dates, titles and anything else you can think of relevant to your employment. Write all of this down. Assemble documents and information you need to determine what has been offered to you, what has been left out and whether you can improve your severance through negotiation.

STEP THREE: Find Your Bargaining Power

Think of the reasons you were terminated. Negotiation is about leverage and bargaining power. Leverage is “influence or power used to achieve a desired result.” Your leverage may be a viable lawsuit you can bring. Do you believe your employment was really terminated for wrongful reasons such as discrimination for sex, gender, age, religion or national origin; discrimination due to a legitimate illness, disability or absence or to deny you accrued benefits; retaliation for having made workers’ compensation claims or sexual harassment claims; retaliation for whistle blowing or speaking out – age, gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, etc.? Or perhaps your bargaining power is what other people in positions similar to yours have received in severance. Have you been with the company for a long time and have many good relationships with people? These are all leverage points. Once you know what you want to accomplish and have assembled the facts underlying your employment, you can find your leverage points.

STEP FOUR: Come Up With Your Plan of Attack

Write down your facts, leverage points and arguments. Consider who you should reach out to, whether you should make first contact by letter, call or in-person, and what you should say. Consider what you want the tone of negotiations to be and what your employer wants to accomplish and his or her leverage points. An attorney can often obtain a better result than you can negotiating on your own because employers are often more convinced you are serious about taking action against them if an attorney contacts them on your behalf.

STEP FIVE: Call a Severance Lawyer

The dedicated attorneys at Jackson Spencer Law are very experienced severance negotiators. It can be helpful to have a professional on your side. To discuss improving the severance package that you have been offered, contact the Jackson Spencer Law lawyers for free consultation by calling (800) 596 – 5074 or by submitting a case review form.