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Employees can bargain with employers for severance pay at the beginning of their employment.
Like any other bargain, a sought after employee with adequate leverage can negotiate severance pay following a change in control or other involuntary termination without “cause.” Cause usually means the employee is at fault or did something to contribute to the termination decision .
Like coaches of major league teams, though, most executives now negotiate severance terms as part of their initial employment agreements.
At one time some employers paid departing executives severance pay without any obligation to do so, and sometimes without requiring a release of rights in return.
From the point of view of an owner or stockholder, voluntary severance pay to a departing executive is problematic.
For employees covered by a severance pay plan, ERISA means that they will know what severance they should receive and under what circumstances.
Union employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) could receive severance pay if it is a negotiated benefit in the CBA.