While severance is not required under the law, many employers who are terminating or laying employees off voluntarily offer severance to employees. Usually, the severance is tied to a release of claims that the employee may have against the employer.

I am often asked about the amounts appropriate amounts of severance. The Connecticut Employment Law Blog recently quoted a study about the average weeks of severance for every year of employment offered to employees:

Voluntarily Separated:

  • Top Executives – 2.76 weeks
  • Senior Executives – 2.23 weeks
  • Department Heads/Managers – 1.55 weeks
  • Professional/Technical – 1.39 weeks
  • All other employees – 1.23 weeks

Involuntarily Separated:

  • Top Executives – 3.04 weeks
  • Senior Executives – 2.49 weeks
  • Department Heads/Managers – 1.78 weeks
  • Professional/Technical – 1.60 weeks
  • All other employees – 1.44 weeks

Also, employers in California usually ask the employee for a release of any known and unknown claims the employee may have against the employer. Under California Civil Code section 1542, an employee must specifically waive their right under section 1542 in order to be a valid release of unknown claims.  The agreement itself must recite Civil Code section 1542 and that the employee is waiving their right under this section.  It is also important that the document clearly specify the extent of the release.  For example, does it apply to the employment relationship or to specific claims the employee has asserted against the employer?