Severance Agreements

A severance agreement is a contract between an employer and an employee who is being terminated from his or her job. Some employers use severance agreements to reward employees who are leaving after a period of long and distinguished service. Other times, a severance agreement can protect the employer from the risk of a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled employee.

Generally speaking, the employer pays the former employee a severance – an extra payment beyond the wages the employee has earned. Severance pay is intended to help ease the former employee during the transition to a new employer. The amount of severance is negotiable, and employers should be thoughtful about how much severance pay they offer. Severance pay is taxable, and it is important that the employer and employee understand that and reach agreement about how the tax consequences of the severance pay will be handled.

In exchange for the severance payment, the former employee generally agrees to waive his or her right to sue the employer and releases any legal claims he or she may have. In other words, the employee agrees not to sue the employer for wrongful termination, breach of contract, etc. This is done by signing the severance agreement.

In addition to the waiver of claims, severance agreements often address other issues that arise when employment is terminated. They may set out an employee’s right to continued health insurance under COBRA or address what will happen regarding the employee’s retirement plan. Some severance agreements contain confidentiality provisions or noncompete agreements.

Employee Handbooks

Although neither Georgia nor South Carolina law requires it, most of my clients have an employee handbook or policy manual that they distribute to new hires. Such handbooks can be an important part of the employment relationship. They provide an opportunity for the employer to welcome the new employee and set out important policies in a coherent, organized fashion. A well-written handbook explains what the employer expects of its employees and provides a summary of the benefits that the employee can expect in return.

Good employee handbooks discuss benefits such as vacation, sick time and other forms of paid time off. They give employees notice of available benefits, including insurance and retirement benefits. They set expectations by outlining the employer’s policies on discipline and attendance. Employers who screen their employees for illegal drug use should explain their testing policies. Employers with more than 50 employees should have a policy regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act. Every handbook should set out the employer’s commitment to a workplace free of discrimination and harassment.

There are a few pitfalls common to poorly-written employee handbooks. Some handbooks are filled with typographical errors and poor formatting. Some contain policies that are vague, contradictory or, in some cases, illegal.

Some handbooks make promises that the employer does not really want to keep.  A common example is the handbook that inadvertently does away with the at-will employment relationship. Generally speaking, employment in Georgia and South Carolina is “at-will” – either the employee or the employer can terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without case. An employer who wishes to modify the at-will relationship should do so thoughtfully and use a separate contract to do so. An employee handbook should never be used in place of an employment contract.

QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN YOU NEED A REAL ESTATE ATTORNEY

 According to Georgia law, a residential real estate closing must be conducted by a licensed real estate attorney in Augusta GA. Several Augusta lawyers at Hull Barrett Attorneys specialize in real estate, including commercial acquisitions, land development, eminent domain and residential real estate. Your Georgia real estate attorney can draft contracts properly with limited financial risk to ensure correct property rights are granted and to make sure that all parties are in compliance with the ever-changing federal and state regulations.

Hull Barrett’s real estate attorneys practice in areas of the law associated with tangible aspects of the land – agriculture, contamination, minerals, structures – and the intangible – zoning, access, interests and air space. Your Hull Barrett real estate attorney in Augusta GA represents clients in a variety of commercial and residential real estate matters, including: home purchases and sales, residential financing, land acquisition, foreclosures and much more.

When the time comes to hire a Georgia real estate attorney, you want to make sure you are hiring the best, of course. Here are five questions to ask when hiring a real estate attorney in Augusta GA.

  1. Have you handled cases similar to mine? All real estate matters certainly are not created equally. A Georgia real estate attorney who has worked similar cases will be able to anticipate potential problems and take care of them. Hull Barrett’s many estate attorneys have experience in all aspects of real estate law and will be able to effectively handle your case.
  2. How will you handle my case? Your attorney’s plan of action should be no secret. In fact, asking this question can help you determine whether your chosen attorney is the right one for your case. Ambiguous answers – “Don’t worry about it.” – can mean your attorney doesn’t know what to do or doesn’t have a plan. Clear, concise answers are the signs of a competent, experienced attorney.
  3. What is the fee schedule? Knowing how your attorney will bill you helps you avoid financial surprises. Simple matters, such as drafting a document, usually are billed by the project. Real estate matters that involve negotiations or going to court are generally billed by the hour.
  4. Will you provide references? Talking to a real estate attorney in Augusta GA will go a long way in helping you choose the right person for your situation. Take that one step further, though, and talk to people your prospective Georgia real estate attorney has helped. It’s safe to say that an attorney who refuses to give references is probably hiding something. Hull Barrett Attorneys are proud of our work and are happy to supply references.
  5. How much do you know about local laws? Not all attorneys who practice in Georgia have experience in local laws. Atlanta lawyers, for example, might be best suited to help you there, but how much do they know about Richmond County or Hephzibah? Hull Barrett’s Augusta lawyers live and practice here, so we have years of experience working with local real estate laws.