Question:

I have been laid off and my tenure was just under 1 year. They have given me 2 weeks notice and a lump sum equivalent to 2 weeks salary plus 3 months of outplacement assistance. Can I ask for more money and less outplacement assistance? I really don’t need the outplacement assistance but I do need the money!

Answer:

I’ve met many recently dismissed employees who’ve surrendered to impulse and signed an improvident termination or severance package only to realize afterwards that more money and protection was available had they just asked. A termination package is usually negotiable.Your employer should advise you to review the terms of your termination package with a lawyer prior to executing a release. Do not sign or agree to anything until you have received proper advice.
In my experience, I usually find that companies are inclined to negotiate better terms of severance once legal counsel is visible. Leverage is found in the threat of litigation and the associated costs of defending a claim. Therefore, a lawyer’s letter, formulated appropriately, can encourage a company to negotiate. If you have obtained proper advice and your former employer is knowledgeable and reasonable, there should be a strong chance of resolving your situation favourably at an early stage.
Time is not always of the essence – I’ve seen many recently dismissed employees jump at the first offer of severance that they are given simply because they cannot afford to wait or are afreaid they will receive nothing else unless they accept the deal immediately. The fact is that your right to compensation is not relinquished simply because you have attempted to negotiate better terms.

For more information on Reasonable Notice and Severance packages, please see my free employment law advice page on Severance Packages here.
Daniel A. Lublin is a Toronto Employment Lawyer specializing in the law of wrongful and constructive dismissal. He can be reached at dan@toronto-employmentlawyer.com.