We have a situation in which an individual in the family was let go and given 6 months’ severance. This person presented a letter saying he had one year of severance in his contract. Since the company had been bought out, they responded that their severance offer superseded any previous offer. This employee was never notified of the change when the company was bought out, nor would he have agreed to go on with the new employer had the terms of his contract been changed to a six-month deal. Do you think this is legal?
This is one of the few times in which I will say you should call a lawyer. I may be brilliant (ha!) but even I can’t evaluate a contract without reading it.
Is it possible that the severance clause is null and void if the company gets sold? Absolutely. Is it possible that it is still enforceable? Absolutely. It all depends on how it is written. If the person who wrote it was a lawyer and not some staffing rep, it should state what the effect of a sale would be.
Send your relative to a lawyer with a copy of the original contract. It will cost money, although an initial consultation should be relatively inexpensive.
I’m guessing that this relative was a fairly high level employee–severance clauses aren’t generally handed out to everyone. This already should give him some clout. Don’t sign anything related to the offered severance until this is resolved. There should be a general release associated with severance. It will contain a clause that states that this overrides all previous contracts. So DO NOT SIGN UNTIL A COMPETENT LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT LAWYER HAS BEEN CONTACTED. This is not a job for the guy who helped with your real estate closing.