Severance Agreements Under Maryland Law

What’s going on in Maryland? From Salisbury to Hagerstown, from Baltimore to Columbia, I have been receiving more and more telephone calls and emails from employees, often executives or managers, who are being fired or laid off from their jobs. This is not surprising in light of the growing weakness in the economy. So what can an attorney, such as myself, do for you if your employer gives you a severance agreement and asks you to sign it?

When I am contacted by an employee who has just been handed a severance agreement, I have three goals. First, I want to determine if the employee would be giving up a potential legal claim or lawsuit by signing the severance agreement. Have you been paid all commissions and bonuses that you are due? Have you been subjected to discrimination? Second, I want to explain to the employee the pros and cons of signing the agreement, and the legal and practical consequences of each provision in the agreement. Is there a non-compete or confidentiality provision? Are the provisions mutual? Finally, I want to see if there are any points that may be negotiable with the employer that might benefit the employee. Can we negotiate for a larger severance amount? Any additional benefits?

Ultimately, after I consult with you concerning your proposed severance agreement, you may not be able to obtain additional benefits, but you will certainly understand the pros and cons of signing the severance agreement, and you will understand the practical and legal consequences of your decision.

So much do lawyers charge for analyzing proposed severance agreements and consulting with employees about such agreements? I cannot speak for other attorneys, but I usually charge hourly, and I typically will spend between one and three hours reviewing the proposed agreement and consulting with my client, depending upon the complexity of the agreement and whether there are significant negotiations with the employer. Ultimately, such review and consultation usually costs between $225 and $350, although a complicated negotiation may be more expensive.