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DATE POSTED 22. 08. 2017, By

Severance Benefits And Older Adult Workers

As an employee, you cannot be let go simply on account of your age, but you could have your position eliminated. In this case, you may be entitled to severance pay benefits, which may be covered under the Employment Retirement Security Act (ERISA). The following provides important information you need to be aware of regarding your benefits, and the rights you may be giving up on signing any releases.

Severance Benefits and ERISA

ERISA protects employees by holding employers accountable for the management and distribution of employee pension and welfare plans. Companies must clearly outline benefit plans, while those who manage and administer the plan have a fiduciary duty to act in the employee’s best interests. When benefit claims are disputed or denied, ERISA provides guidelines for employees to appeal these decisions.

ERISA coverage of severance plan programs is a murky area. Generally, in order to qualify, severance plans must meet the following requirements:

  • The package involves more than just one lump sum payment;
  • It is not in response to a single event, such as a plant closing, but rather a continuing event or practice the company engages in, such as a benefit plan agreed upon in your employment contract or outlined in your employee handbook;
  • The package itself requires ongoing administration by the company, such as the need for ongoing monitoring and financial coordination, and discretion in determining eligibility.

Severance pay generally includes compensation based on years of service, as well as life insurance, outplacement services, or other benefits. Under the U.S. Department of Labor guidelines, severance pay is not a requirement, but based entirely on agreements made with your employer.

Releases Against Future Claims

Generally, in return for your severance pay you will need to release your employer from future liability, such as lawsuits alleging discrimination or wrongful firing. While the terms of the severance pay agreement dictate how long you have to consider proposals before signing, if you are over the age of 40 you are automatically entitled to 21 days under the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act. If you have any doubts about your severance pay or benefits or whether you are being forced out due to your age, use this time to consult with an experienced Chicago employee benefits and discrimination attorney.

At Roberts Bartolic LLP, we work hard to protect the rights of workers and to ensure you get the benefits you are entitled to. Call or contact us online today and request a free consultation to help determine the best course of action in your situation.

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