Many Virginians are being presented with “separation agreements.” No, I am not referring to the agreement between spouses looking to divide their property and divorce, I am referring to an employment agreement signed at termination.

Because the economy remains in a tail spin, businesses continue to lay people off at alarming rates. Sometimes, severance packages will be offered, or some amount of money to hold the employee over until they find something else (yeah right). With that money however, comes conditions.

Most employees are being asked to sign Severance agreements or Separation agreements wherein they are agreeing to new non-compete terms, release of all legal claims, confidentiality clauses, etc.

I have reviewed many in the last few weeks and each one has been unique. I know paying an hour or two for an attorney may not sound like a good investment right now, but this is what our clients are learning for the small investment:

– What legal duties / rights they have under Virginia law, not outlined in their agreement

– What the legal consequences are of refusing to sign, or signing and breaching a severance agreement

– What their future employment options are in light of new non-compete language

– How to negotiate severance agreements

– Understanding of the agreement (often times they use terms that are ambigious and difficult to understand)

Please don’t sign any contract without reading it and trying to understand the terms of the agreement first. You’ll be glad you made the effort to understand your separation agreement before you sign on the dotted line.

About the author

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at

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