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Know your rights when it comes to severance packages

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You've put in years working for your employer. You've done good work and helped the company thrive. Now, you're facing the loss of your job. There's a million reasons it happens, even to the best employees in Texas.

Perhaps a new executive has gotten hired, and the intention is to bring in fresh talent. Maybe your company was acquired by or merged with another, and your department is now redundant. It's also possible that revenue issues have resulted in the company scaling back the size of its operations. Whatever the situation, when you're facing the loss of your job, you deserve to know your rights.

Unless you got fired for cause, like theft or negligence on the job, you have certain rights. You have the right to get paid for your work in your last days and weeks on the job. You also have the right, under COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986) to continue your health insurance coverage although you no longer work for the same company. Because Texas is an at-will employment state, your employer can fire your for any reason, at any time. You are also allowed to end your employment without any restrictions or obligations to your employer.

Better positions often include severance packages.

If you're an engineer, executive or other highly educated and experienced professional, you may receive a severance package when your position gets eliminated. Your employment agreement may outline what your severance package will include, such as a certain number of weeks worth of pay, continuation of insurance for a period or even retirement account matching contributions, requiring your employer to match your contributions to your 401(k) or similar plan. In some cases, such as executives moving on, severance could include bonuses or even stock options from your employer.

In cases of sudden or downsizing-related job termination, your employer may also assist you in the process of finding a new job. Your human resources department, for example, could reach out to businesses your company works with to see if they are hiring for positions with similar requirements. In some cases, re-training or relocation fees may be included in your severance package to help ensure you can find a new position that offers similar pay.

Don't be afraid to negotiate.

If your employment contract outlines specifics for a severance package, that will probably inform the severance you receive. You may also be able to negotiate for a better deal. If you have questions about these matters, speak with an employment law attorney with experience in negotiating severance pay and benefits on behalf of employees.

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