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Enforcing a negotiated severance agreement.

Chicago, IL |

When I was hired, my employment agreement included a severance package. I've been terminated, and my employer is offering less than what was agreed. If I don't accept they've threatened to pursue "termination for cause." (I'm confident I would prevail) to recover a signing bonus I was paid.

If I am sued and prevail, can I recover my legal fees?

If I have to sue to enforce the contract, can I recover legal fees?

Also, my employment agreement has a one-sided provision for arbitration (at employer's option) and a one-sided provision for my employer to recover it's reasonable attorneys fees. It is silent on whether the employee is able to recover these fees. Is there any chance that the courts would consider the consider these terms unconscionable and decide to interpret the legal fee provision as mutual?

Attorney Answers 2


Legal fees in terms of court costs, yes. Legal fees in terms of attorney costs - unless there's a statute on point, the only way to recover attorney fees is if it's written into the employment contract. If the contract is silent, then generally no.

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As stated above, the general answ on fees is: No, you cannot recover fees unless there is a contract term allowing you to do so or a statute on point. I cannot imagine a court reading an attorneys fees section into a contract on behalf of one party just because the other party has one. It is much more likely that the court will read it out.

On the other hand, if the termination was in violation of, for example, the anti-discrimination laws, you may recover fees if successful.

Finally, if there is a clause (as it appers) in the contract allowing the Emp;loyer to not pay if the terminaion was for cause, you need to examin the likelihood of that result, and the cost to you of defending their action.

In any case you need the personal advice of an attorney who contrates in employment law.

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