Severance. It’s a heavy word for a heavy occasion. Despite the overall health of the economy, tech companies still occasionally find the need to institute layoffs, and tech pros may find themselves across the table from an HR manager offering a severance package.
Under such emotionally charged circumstances, it’s easy to forget everything you need to handle in order to exit your former company in a solid position. Here are some pointers:
Figure out the last possible date you can leave your soon-to-be-former company. That way, you can ensure you receive your final paycheck as late as possible, before severance actually kicks in. Your last check will likely include any accrued vacation time, making it especially valuable.
Know Your Company’s Severance Policy
Many employee handbooks set out the official rules for severance, and it’s often difficult to convince an employer to deviate from those guidelines. If the policy stipulates a week of severance for every year of service, for example, that’s certainly what HR will offer at the outset. While it’s not impossible that a bit of persuasion on your part will convince your company to offer more, it’s often difficult to budge them from the policy.
In addition to money, be prepared to talk about any health benefits (and COBRA) that may continue or start up once you leave.
Know What You Signed
When you started your job, you signed a lot of forms. Some of those forms may have outlined your eventual severance; if so, that’s likely what you’ll get on your way out, unless you (or your attorney) negotiate, which brings us to the next part…
Consider an Employment Attorney
Severance can quickly transform into a particularly thorny issue, especially if it ends up involving non-competes, restricted stock, deferred bonus payments, and other sensitive elements. If there’s a lot of money at stake, it may be worth a couple thousand dollars to consult an employment attorney who can advise you on what to do.
Be Prepared to Deal With Non-Competes and NDAs
You may have signed a non-compete when you began the job. While working on projects, you may have also scrawled your signature on a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), which prevented you from disclosing sensitive details of whatever hardware or software you helped create. When you leave your job, those documents come into effect in a big way; while many states don’t look kindly upon non-competes (particularly California, which disallows them), others will enforce certain provisions under particular circumstances.
In a situation that involves restrictive non-competes and NDAs, an employment attorney can help negotiate for carve-outs that will allow you to work without worrying that a past employer will come hunting for you.
Collect Your Contacts
Even if you’ve spent a relatively short time on the job, you’ve doubtlessly collected tons of contacts. Make sure to notify them that you’re leaving, and take down their information in some format you can take with you.
Depending on how long you worked for your company, you may possess years’ worth of institutional knowledge that make you a valuable asset, even after you’ve been laid off. During severance negotiations, raise the prospect of consulting; you might be surprised at how readily your employer agrees to bring you onboard in that capacity.
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