Can You Get Severance If You Quit Your Job?

June 20th, 2023

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People quit their jobs for all sorts of reasons – better opportunities, shifting priorities, or the need to escape from uninspiring, frustrating or miserable situations. Whatever motivates workers to move to greener pastures, they typically want to leave with as little drama or animosity as possible.

They also want to depart with as much financial security and as many benefits as they can. Severance packages that include compensation and other considerations on your way out the door can provide that security. Many companies offer severance when they decide to let employees go or lay them off. But when employees quit for their own reasons, are they entitled to severance? If not, is there a way for them to get severance pay and benefits anyway?

Your Employer Probably Doesn’t Owe You Severance If You Quit Your Job

Federal and state laws impose many obligations on employers regarding pay and benefits – minimum wage, overtime pay, health insurance, COBRA and sick leave, among many others. But no law in Minnesota or any other state mandates that an employer provide severance to a departing employee, whether the employee was terminated or left voluntarily.

As such, your employer owes you nothing when you quit, other than such legally required benefits – unless your employment contract, collective bargaining agreement or company policy says otherwise.

How Do You Know If Your Employer Has Any Severance Obligations?

If you signed an employment agreement, review the terms carefully; ideally, with the assistance of an experienced employment lawyer. It may provide for compensation and benefits, even if you quit, so long as you meet certain conditions, such as giving sufficient notice or if you’re leaving for specified reasons. Similarly, review any provisions in your employee handbook regarding the employee exit process and any benefits available upon separation.

Why Would Your Employer Offer You Severance If It’s Not Required?

Even if your employment agreement or company policies don’t provide for severance, and your employer, therefore, owes you nothing, you may have more leverage to negotiate a severance agreement than you realize.

While your employer may be unlikely to offer severance out of the kindness of its corporate heart when you quit, it may offer or agree to a severance package out of self-interest. If you have potential discrimination or other legal claims, your employer may offer you severance pay or other benefits in exchange for you releasing such claims. Similarly, it may be important to your employer that you refrain from commenting publicly about an allegedly toxic or problematic work environment or practices and pay you to keep quiet. Effective July 1, 2023, your employer cannot negotiate for a non-compete agreement but may offer compensation in exchange for limits to your post-employment activities.

Don’t Quit Before Consulting With an Experienced Employment Attorney

Leaving a job is no small decision, and how you end your employment relationship is just as important as why you’re doing so. Don’t assume that you can’t get severance when you quit. If you put in your notice without first consulting an employment attorney, you risk leaving more than just your office keys on the table.

If you’re considering quitting your job and would like help exploring severance opportunities, please contact Halunen Law or call us at (612) 605-4098 for a free consultation.

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As a member of Halunen Law’s Employment Practice Group, attorney Pamela Johnson brings an impressive reputation for advocacy and achievement. Her clients benefit from her breadth of experience, stellar track record, and exceptional insight. She is particularly passionate about representing employees and strongly believes that everyone should be treated fairly, especially in the workplace.