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  • Voluntary Termination

    Are employers required to pay out unused vacation under Hawaii labor laws? Also, how do I respond to a severance agreement that my employer wants me to sign if I do not agree with certain parts of it? I do not trust the company because after giving 6 weeks notice, they tried to force me into staying on longer by threatening to suspend my pay and by threatening to disparage my performance during reference checks by prospective employers.

  • #2
    Only public employees in Hawaii are guaranteed their vacation pay at termination, voluntary or involuntary. Private employers may opt to pay or not, as they choose.

    Severance is extremely uncommon for voluntary terminations; it's not required by law for either voluntary or involuntary terminations except in very limited circumstances which do not apply here. If you don't want to sign the agreement, don't. You're not required to. But they're not required to give you severance, either, and as I said it's EXTREMELY unusual for it to be offered for voluntary terminations.

    If you are not paid for all the time you actually worked, you can file a complaint with the state DOL. If they say anything about your performance that is factually untrue (as opposed to an honestly held but negative opinion - those are protected under the law) AND you can prove that you suffered damages as the law sees damages as a direct result of this statement, then you can take legal action.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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    • #3
      Thank you for that information.

      I work in the medical profession and when I first agreed to stay on for 6 weeks, my employer offered to pay out all unused vacation and PTO plus a bonus. Since then, they have hired someone as a replacement who is not qualified and this action could possibly lead to significant claims against the company from clients who discover this.

      It has been a week since I left the company and now they are asking me to sign a severance agreement that states, among other things, that I may not file a complaint or charge for any actions relating to the company. It also states that in exchange for the severance pay, I release and forever discharge the company from any promises, actions, and contracts. I assume they are afraid that I will file a claim regarding their unethical business practices and they are holding my payout as “ransom”. I have a written agreement in email form that outlines the original agreement but would that be considered a binding contract?

      A part of me wants to relinquish the severance pay because of ethical reasons. I feel the potential harm that the company could impose upon patients is not worth any payout amount. Still, I would like to find the best way out of this situation.

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      • #4
        There's no possible way I could tell you if the paperwork you have consitutes a binding contract. Only an attorney in your state who has reviewed all the documentation in question can tell you that as both state law and the EXACT wording of the document can affect it.
        The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

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        • #5
          Thank you. I was hoping to avoid hiring an attorney since I am armed only with an email promise of a payout, but from my current point of view it seems as if the company is about to get away with stiffing me as well as unethical business practices if I don't.

          I appreciate your advice.

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