When to Hire a Lawyer to Look at a Notice of Termination

termination notice

Bruce and me, in Peru. The blissful vacation days before the layoff!

 

Bruce and I did not agree on whether we should hire a lawyer to look at his notice of termination. We weren’t only on the same page, we were reading from two entirely different books!

He was inclined to show his layoff letter to an employment lawyer – not because he suspected the company of any wrongdoing or underhandedness. Rather, he simply wanted to be sure that he wasn’t missing anything in the contract. He wanted to cover all his financial and career bases.

I however, didn’t want to spend money on a lawyer because I thought the notice of termination was relatively clear and easy to understand. It was even funny in some parts – my favorite sentence was, “It is agreed that the consideration and this Release are not admissions of liability and, in fact, such liability is expressly denied.”

When to Hire a Lawyer to Look at a Notice of Termination

How do you decide if you should hire an employment lawyer? The statement about admitting liability that doesn’t exist is a wonderful example of circular lawyer talk that requires another lawyer to decipher. I think it means “we don’t admit we’re guilty of anything, and further more we deny that there is anything to be guilty of.” Or maybe it doesn’t mean that – the employer’s lawyer could be referring to something internal that we know naught of.

And that’s why some people should hire an employment lawyer to look at a notice of termination! Sometimes layoff letters are teeming with jargon and confusing statements than only other lawyers can decipher.

If I knew an employment lawyer who would look at my layoff letter for free, then I’d probably send it on over. But it really depends on the notice of termination and my gut feeling about it. If I was involved in a confusing, complex termination of employment, then I’d hire someone.

You should hire an employment lawyer if:

  • You believe the notice of termination isn’t lawful or fair to you
  • You don’t understand the wording in the notice of termination
  • The notice of termination seems unclear or suspicious in some way
  • You think you can negotiate a better layoff package, but you aren’t sure how
  • You’re in a position that could make you vulnerable to potential future civil or criminal lawsuits
  • There is a significant amount of money involved
  • Your employer isn’t willing to negotiate or even discuss the terms with you
  • You can’t locate your employer, and suspect she’s skipped out of town

Bruce did end up hiring an employment lawyer to look at his notice of termination. I don’t want to know how much it cost to spend a couple of hours with that lawyer – but it didn’t result in anything new or different. The notice was accepted as is.

Sometimes you want to consult with a lawyer for peace of mind. You want to know that the layoff letter is legitimate. You’ll sleep better at night knowing that you covered all your bases.

You might not need to hire an employment lawyer if:

  • You think the notice of termination is clear enough
  • You aren’t in a vulnerable position in the company (for example, a vice-president or CEO can be held liable for certain wrongdoings)
  • You’re happy with the terms of the layoff
  • You can’t afford a lawyer

Bruce’s notice of termination wasn’t complicated or nefarious. It was fair, but Bruce is a cautious science guy who likes to cross all his T’s and dot all his I’s. If you’re like that, then you should probably hire an employment lawyer.

Are you unsure if you should hire an employment to look at your notice of termination? Check the employment laws in your state or province first. Your notice of termination should at the very least meet those laws, if not exceed them in terms of generosity and fairness.

10 Tips for Dealing With a New Boss will help you cope when you get a new job.

I welcome your thoughts on termination agreement or getting a layoff! It’s definitely a huge transition, but it can be the best thing that ever happened to you.

If you’re changing your career, read Making a Career Change at 40.

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