There is no law requiring severance pay. Generally, you have a right to severance pay if you were promised it: it’s in the employee handbook, your company has always given it to workers in situations similar to yours, or your company has a severance plan.

Remember -- without a union, an employer can change a policy, or the rules, anytime.

You will have to be able to show that you reasonably expected severance pay. If your employer always did the same thing, it will be easier to prove. You have to show that employees knew:

  • who was eligible for severance pay
  • when they would be eligible for severance pay
  • how much they would get paid
  • that the employer paid the severance pay

If you don’t get severance pay that you were promised or should have gotten under a company policy, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) administers the law.

If a large group of workers is being laid off, they may be covered by the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification law (WARN), which gives them extra rights – including, sometimes, severance pay.