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Beware of a severance agreement you don't understand

Have you ever known someone who will sign his or her name to a dotted line when asked to do so, without actually reading the document? Many people in Arizona and across the nation have wound up facing terrible legal complications after adding their signatures to documents they didn't fully understand. A lawfully signed contract becomes enforceable by law; therefore, it is crucial to have a full understanding of all obligations and restrictions contained therein to avoid negative surprises later.

If you walk into your office one day and your boss unexpectedly presents you with a severance package agreement and asks that you sign it right then and there, you may want to proceed with extreme caution.

Keep the following in mind regarding severance agreements:

  • It's generally a very bad idea to sign anything you haven't carefully reviewed and fully understood.
  • If your employer suddenly asks you to sign a severance agreement without warning and without giving you a chance to read the document, you can submit an official request (preferably in writing) to take a week or two or three to thoroughly review the agreement.
  • Many people choose to show their proposed severance agreements to employment law attorneys who can provide sound counsel and effective representation.
  • It's not uncommon for an employer to include a non-compete clause in a severance agreement, even if the employer did not ask the employee to sign such an agreement before or during the course of employment. Employees should be on the look-out for such stipulations.

Once you sign a severance agreement, your former employer could hold you legally accountable for whatever it is you agreed to when you signed. Problems often occur when employers refuse to negotiate agreeable deals and employees are left feeling like they've been backed into a corner to accept an unfair agreement, all in the midst of a layoff or job change.

If you do not carefully review (and fully understand) what you are signing, you may wind up facing serious legal challenges if the employer demands that you adhere to something you did not realize was there. An experienced employment lawyer can clearly define all severance agreement terminology and help you make informed decisions regarding your particular situation. An attorney can also aggressively litigate any issue that involves violation of your personal rights.

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