I have recently been terminated from my employer and have been asked to sign a Separation Agreement in order to obtain a severance package. I have a question about a clause in the agreement called a non-disparagement clause. According to the agreement, I would be required to repay the company the severance money I received if the company determines that I have violated the non-disparagement clause. Does this mean that I cannot say anything bad to anyone about the company?
The company operates in a heavilly regulated industry. If I am contacted by one of the company's regulators am I prevented by the non-disparagement clause from telling anything negative about my former employer? I am thinking about consulting an attorney, but don't want to waist my time and money if I am prevented from talking to anyone about anything. Thanks for any assistance you may be able to provide.
...WITHOUT HAVING A COMPETENT EMPLOYMENT LAWYER LOOK IT OVER!
Now, with respect to your specific question, employers make make non-disparagement clauses as general and ominous as they can. Yours will be controlled by its actual text. In Illinois, you can always tell the truth, as you know it, if summoned by a proper Court or Administrative Subpoena. Regulators know this. If they approach you and you tell them "I need a subpoena to talk about this" they'll know you have something for them and they'll acommodate you with a subpoena.
I routinely renegotiate the language of these things to narrow the definition of disparagement. Very rarely does the other lawyer mind much.
Go see your lawyer. Life is too short to sign a document that creates obligations you don't fully undersand.
BTW, if you have already talked to regulators about anything, you might be entitled to some protection under the revised Illinois Whistleblower legislation. It's a little overrated but it's something.
Anthony B. Cameron
Quincy, IL 62301
posted by Anthony Cameron | Aug 9, 2006 2:16 PM [EST]