Another day, another round of layoffs for the region’s workforce. This time its Woolrich, the oldest clothing company and woolen mill in the United States. The Company announced on Tuesday that it is laying off close to 50 garment workers in its Jersey Shore, PA plant due to a drop in demand for its products. It will be offering severance packages to the affected employees who cannot be placed elsewhere in the company.
Employers are not required to give severance pay to their employees. Then why do they do it? There are two main reasons, and neither of them is altruistic. One, they want to give employees a reason to stick around until the plant closes. If an employee quits before the layoff, he or she will generally not be eligible for severance pay. Two, the employers want the employees who are laid off to sign away their right to sue for any and all claims they may have. Once those packages are signed, the employer can breathe a big sigh of relief. It can’t be sued by its former employees, for any reason.
Any employee who is offered a severance package should run, not walk, to an attorney who specializes in employment law. Your cousin’s friend’s brother who handled your house closing or your dog bite case won’t do. If you do not work in New Jersey and would like to find a knowledgeable, competent employment attorney, contact my office for a referral or check out the National Employment Lawyers Association at http://www.nela.org. To all of the affected workers at the Woolrich plant, we send our sympathy and wishes for a better future.