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Can a worker sue over not receiving severance pay?

On Behalf of | Mar 28, 2024 | Employment Law For Employers |

When a worker loses their job suddenly, they may worry about paying their bills and searching for new employment. The average person doesn’t have enough personal savings to survive without a paycheck and could take months to find a new job.

Severance packages help workers manage the transition from one work arrangement to the next. An employee may negotiate with their employer to receive a certain number of needs to pay after leaving a job. They might negotiate to keep certain benefits, such as health insurance. Employers sometimes offer severance packages to well-compensated professionals to offset the stress of job loss.

Some workers have a sense of entitlement towards such benefits and may threaten to sue an employer if they do not receive a generous severance package. Can workers in Florida take legal action over an employer’s refusal to offer severance pay?

Denying severance could be a contract violation

Technically, Florida state law does not explicitly require severance packages when companies terminate workers, although it does impose certain rules when companies offer severance pay. However, many professionals specifically negotiate employment arrangements that include a right to severance pay after a sudden job loss.

While workers can’t automatically sue by claiming a violation of state law or their pay rights, they could take legal action if their contract promises severance pay. Many employers negotiate severance package terms when hiring new workers that offer a combination of benefits and pay but in limited circumstances.

Employers might retain the right to deny severance packages when they terminate a worker for cause, such as poor performance or misconduct. In scenarios where a worker’s contract might entitle them to a severance package, carefully documenting the circumstances that led to their termination could help an employer minimize lawsuit risk.

There can be benefits to negotiating a severance package in some cases. Employers can limit what information the worker reveals publicly or their attempts to compete with their former employer by starting their own business.

Managers, human resources professionals and business owners familiar with severance pay rules may find it easier to handle the termination of a worker without provoking employment litigation. Reviewing contracts and state law can help someone prepare for the challenging process of a worker’s termination.