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Pennsylvania Employment Law Blog

Important parts of a severance agreement

Receiving notice of a job termination and packing up and leaving a workplace for the last time provides little time to consider and review a severance package, especially under emotional duress. Some important matters, however, should be carefully considered when reviewing severance agreements.

First, it is important to distinguish between a final paycheck and severance pay. Even without a severance agreement, employers are legally required to pay salary or wages for all time worked until termination along with accrued vacation time, legal deductions, and benefit elections in a final paycheck. Some employees may be eligible for an accrued sick leave or bonus payout.

Seeking the best severance package

Accepting a new job offer or losing a job may be difficult times to negotiate the terms of leaving employment. However, the separation package contained in severance agreements can dictate financial and professional futures and should contain certain terms.

A severance package includes the amount of money and other benefits that will be provided to an employee who leaves their job or has their employment ended with an employer. Except for many union workers, these packages are not legally required and are intended to compensate for the loss of employment, stop an employee from filing a lawsuit, or prevent the employee from taking other action against the employer.

Age discrimination in the form of layoffs

Layoffs are an unfortunate reality for many businesses. As part of its reorganization, Sears Holding filed a notice of layoffs, which will impact the local distribution center. 

Layoffs typically impact anyone whose job is "non-essential." However, some companies use such events as an excuse to get rid of employees they no longer want, which typically means older workers. This is a form of age discrimination, but it can be tough to prove. The following factors may help build a case that a layoff functioned as a type of employment discrimination. 

Negotiating contracts for medical professionals

Negotiations may determine the professional and, in many ways, the personal lives of medical professionals for many years. For this reason, preparation is required before negotiating employment contracts for medical professionals.

First, professionals should determine whether they want to work solo, in a partnership, or in a small or employer practice. Whether the practice style is private, hospital-owned, or urgent care is another important consideration.

Signing a severance agreement at termination

Ending a job, voluntarily or involuntarily, may include stress and important decisions. Many times, employers ask departing employees to sign separation or severance agreements. Before signing, an employee should consider several matters.

A severance agreement is a contract between an employer and employee that governs their departure. Usually, the employer agrees to pay additional compensation or severance pay in return for the employee's assurance not to do anything that harms the employer, such as suing for wrongful termination or back pay or making derogatory statements about the employer. The law does not require severance pay for resignation, layoff, firing or any termination, even for a long-term employee.

Employment contracts have benefits

Receiving a job offer is the time to consider job security. While employment contracts are considered mostly beneficial for employers, they can also provide a safety net, which sets forth the employer's obligations concerning salary, benefits and other important matters.

Verbal job offers are, as the saying goes, not worth the paper they are printed on. These may be misunderstood and difficult to prove. The person who made the promises may not have been authorized to make the offer, may be reassigned or terminated. Also, written offers in a letter may not be binding, may be subject to change or may conflict with company policy. The sale of the company may also revoke these promises.

Contracts can restrict medical practice

Physicians do not have to perform certain procedures that conflict with their religious beliefs under federal conscience protection rules enacted over 40 years ago. Religious hospitals may also have contracts restricting doctors, for example, from engaging in birth control practices at the hospitals. These employment contracts for medical professionals may also prohibit them from performing certain procedures in other practices.

Many times, these prohibitions are contained in morality clauses and other restrictions used by religious and nonreligious hospitals and practices that list activities that can lead to the termination of the physician. These clauses are often vague and generally address anything that the physician does that can bring the hospital or practice into disrepute.

5 things to consider before signing a severance agreement

When you finished your residency and started practice in Hershey, you thought you had found the perfect hospital. As your practice developed, though, you began to look for different employment opportunities that better fit your interests. Now that you have found a new position, your current hospital administrator may want you to sign a severance agreement. 

Severance agreements are common for high-wage earners, educated professionals and others in the workforce. Simply put, a severance agreement describes the obligations of you and your employer following the end of the employment relationship. Here are five things to consider before you sign one. 

Pennsylvania considers ending non-compete agreements

Pennsylvania now enforces non-competition agreements if certain conditions are met. A bill pending before a state house legislative committee, however, would severely restrict their use. This could change the circumstances for negotiating employment contracts.

Now, Pennsylvania generally enforces these agreements if they are a secondary part of the employment relationship, the parties gave up and received something valuable for entering this agreement, the time and geographic restrictions are reasonable, and these restrictions were designed to protect the employer's legitimate interests. Courts rule on their enforceability by balancing the employer's protectable business interest and the employee's interest in earning a living in their chosen profession with the public interest.

Dealing with noncompete agreements

A person looking for a new job or trying to leave a medical practice may face legal obstacles. Many new doctors must deal with noncompetition agreements contained in their employee contracts for medical professionals.