Ohio is an at-will employment state, which means that most employees in Ohio do not work under an employment contract. People are free to accept employment and leave employment whenever they wish. Likewise, employers can fire employees for any reason, or for no reason at all, as long as the termination does not violate other employment laws. As a result, most employees who are terminated do not receive a severance package it and it is not required under Ohio law. However, some employers do offer severance pay for employees who are terminated or affected by a reduction in force, commonly referred to as “RIF”. Before signing a Severance or Separation Agreement, which is a binding contract, there are some things that employees need to know.
Many times when people are offered severance agreements, sometimes referred to as separation or release of claims agreements, they have no idea what to expect. There are, however, some common provisions included within severance agreements, such as:
Although some of these clauses may seem unfair, they are usually not necessarily illegal. Employees should know what employers cannot include in severance agreements to ensure that the one they receive is legal.
It is essential that employees know what employers are not allowed to include in severance agreements. The first is that employers are not allowed to ask employees to forfeit their right to any vested pension benefits protected by law. If employees have a legal right to these benefits, they must receive them in accordance with provisions in the pension plan.
Employers also cannot ask employees to waive their right to file a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. Employers can, however, require within a severance agreement that employees waive the right to receive financial compensation if they file these complaints and the Agency awards a financial settlement to the employee.
If you have been offered a severance agreement, it is important that you do not accept it until a Columbus employment lawyer has reviewed it. At Marshall Forman & Schlein LLC, we understand the terms and provisions contained in settlement agreements. If an employer has potentially violated the law, depending on the circumstances, we may be able to use it as leverage to negotiate a better severance agreement.
Severance agreements are extremely time-sensitive, so you should call us right away if you would like the severance agreement reviewed and to determine if it may be possible to negotiate additional severance benefits.
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