Losing your job is always stressful, and it is especially difficult when you had no idea your company would terminate you. When termination comes out of the blue, you are likely in shock and not thinking clearly. If your employer asks you to sign a deed of release, you may do so without thoroughly understanding exactly what it is you are signing. You may have just signed away your right to sue your now former employer. If you think you may lose your job, do not sign any documents until you consult an employment lawyer. If you have already signed a deed of release and did not know what you were signing, contact an attorney immediately.
Deed of Release
A deed of release is a document outlining any severance pay and other benefits you may receive after your termination from the company. By signing the document, you give up your right to sue your employer for wrongful termination or similar cause. That is just one reason why it is imperative to read and understand any document given to you before signing.
When asked to sign a deed of release, think about whether you may have grounds to sue your employer. If your company already has a severance policy in place for terminated workers, such as one week’s pay for every year of service, you are entitled to that severance unless you are terminated for serious and possibly illegal misbehavior. For example, if you worked for the company for 10 years, you should receive at least 10 weeks’ worth of severance pay, as per company policy. If the deed of release gives you twice that amount of severance, it is worth considering signing, but you should still consult with an employment attorney before taking any action.
Signing Under Duress
When you sign a deed of release, the document is considered legally binding. Keep in mind that overturning a valid deed of release is difficult. However, if the employer made you sign the deed of release by issuing a threat, such as saying you will not receive your final paycheck or payment for unused vacation days without signing, or by using any other type of coercion, you may not have signed the document under your own free will. That is known as signing under duress. If you must prove that you did sign under duress, circumstances that may uphold your contention include:
- Proof of harassment regarding signing the paperwork
- Eyewitness accounts
- Prior contracts with the company
If your employer went so far as to physically harm you to make you sign the paperwork, document any injuries and visit your doctor immediately.
If you lost your job and have issues with the way your termination was handled, call us at (856) 512-1461 or complete our online contact form.