When Severance Agreements Demand Workers’ Silence

In March, a report from the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas noted that corporate layoffs had hit their highest level for a first quarter since 2009—a 35.6 percent increase from 2018

As a result, 190,410 workers were left out in the cold between January and April, even as the fascist in the White House continued to tout low unemployment numbers and crow about “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Media giants like Gannett and Verizon and digital upstarts like BuzzFeed and Vice Media accounted for at least 1,650 of these lost jobs. (Full disclosure: I was laid off alongside 249 Vice coworkers in February 2019.) And the trend shows no sign of abating: digital and print media outlets have continued to shutter, while Ford announced in May they’d be reducing their global white-collar workforce by 10 percent, including 2,300 job cuts in the United States alone.

Almost 80 percent of American workers live paycheck to paycheck, which means that in the event of a layoff they have no savings to fall back on. Many will have to apply for unemployment compensation, which most states award to workers who have been in their job for a specified length of time (such as at least a year). The benefit is usually much less than the worker’s full paycheck was. The better option is to leave with severance pay—which the Department of Labor defines as a sum “granted to employees upon termination of employment” and is usually based on years of service.

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