Severance pay can very often be negotiated higher. The success of that negotiation will usually depend on the strength of any potential legal claims you have against your employer. This is because the severance pay is being offered in exchange for your agreement not to sue. That agreement is more valuable if you have a strong legal claim, and your employer may be willing to pay a premium to not have to defend it.
The amount of severance pay should not be the only aspect of the severance agreement you consider negotiating. Along with your promise not to sue, employers will often include confidentiality, non-compete, non-solicitation, and many other restrictions within the agreement. These restrictions can impact your career going forward and are crucial to understand before you sign off. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you consult with a lawyer experienced with severance agreements who can cut through the legal jargon and help you determine the best course of action. With an understanding of exactly what the agreement requires of you as well as the strength of your potential legal claims, you will be empowered to make an informed decision to accept or negotiate the agreement.
Since employers will limit the amount of time you have to accept the severance agreement, an important first step is to identify that deadline. For employees 40 or older, the deadline will normally be 21 days after you receive the agreement and then an additional seven days during which you can revoke the agreement. After you identify how much time you have to respond, you can begin to consider the more complicated question of how best to respond. A lawyer experienced with severance negotiation can help to answer this question by breaking down your legal obligations under the agreement and negotiating leverage based on your potential legal claims against your employer.
Unless there is an employment agreement or severance policy guaranteeing it, employers are generally not required to offer any severance pay when they fire an employee. But with the help of an experienced severance lawyer, you will maximize your opportunity to negotiate higher severance pay.