Ok to collect unemployment along with severance?
April 7, 2020 2:37 PM   Subscribe

My wife was laid off today in Massachusetts. She can sign away some rights to get a severance package that will be paid over a couple of months. She intends to sign. Several websites including boston.com indicate that if one gives up rights in exchange for severance they can also collect unemployment. Is there any issue with doing so? We'd like to start collecting right away to make sure we can get the full extra COVID amount, as we don't think she'll be able to easily find a job any time soon.
posted by david1230 to Work & Money (11 answers total)
I was able to collect a severance package and unemployment in 2015 in California and our HR reps were very forthcoming about our ability to do so. But: different state, different time, and different situation (corporate takeover with lots of advance notice for us, no pandemic). Can she contact HR to ask if they have any information for her as to next steps and how to navigate filing for unemployment?
posted by phatkitten at 2:50 PM on April 7, 2020

She can collect both. I know someone who lost her job earlier this year in Massachusetts. She basically signed away any and all claims against the company in-exchange for the severance and bonuses for the past year. She started collecting unemployment right away even some of the payments took 1 month+ to get from the company.

Any company with semi-competent HR function should know how they write their severance/ separation agreements, and thus this should not be a problem.
posted by zeikka at 2:53 PM on April 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

In DC at least, you can collect unemployment and severance, but depending on how much severance, unemployment benefit may be reduced or eliminated for a specific week. You would still want to apply even if benefit would be zero in a specific week so that she could get it after severance runs dry. I think you may be able to get the new 600/week regardless of severance amount.

I see no reason why anything would be different where you are, but who knows.
posted by cacao at 2:54 PM on April 7, 2020

Illinois anecdote—in 2018 I accepted a severance package and then collected unemployment for the full 26 weeks of my eligibility. No problems at all. I did have a lawyer look at my severance agreement and I encourage you to do the same, just for peace of mind if nothing else.
posted by bookmammal at 3:17 PM on April 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

In Minnesota you can do both, but unemployment doesn't start paying out until you've exhausted your severance. E.g. my ex just got laid off but he received eight weeks of severance from his employer. He filed for unemployment immediately that same day and was approved, but he won't start seeing payments (the base amount he's owed plus the additional COVID-19 dollars) in his bank account until the eight weeks have elapsed.
posted by anderjen at 3:27 PM on April 7, 2020

I also did both - a long time ago, but in Massachusetts.
posted by jdl at 4:19 PM on April 7, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Would she be better off collecting after the severance in order to maximize benefits? Or should she file right away? They seem to have written the agreement fine, it’s more a question of maximizing benefits. I don’t expect HR will actually answer UI questions, and it’s not easy to get through to the MA unemployment office at the moment.
posted by david1230 at 4:53 PM on April 7, 2020

Best answer: I did both, in Massachusetts, just about 5 years ago. She definitely can. The law sees these as different forms of payment.

Also, if you know a lawyer, you may want to ask them to look over the rights you're signing away. I'm given to understand that violations of these agreements are unlikely to ever result in legal action and often don't hold up if they do (such as NDAs) - but you will want someone to look at the particulars of hers and give you a sense as to whether they are more stringent than normal.
posted by Miko at 4:55 PM on April 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

File right away. Don't delay.

I had trouble getting my funds from UI going, and in fact had to call my state senator to kick my case in the butt. Don't hesitate to do that if you need to.
posted by Miko at 4:56 PM on April 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

She should file right away. With all the unemployment claims currently being processed there may be delays. The sooner she files the sooner she can collect.
posted by ananci at 6:14 PM on April 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

And if they eventually extend the benefit, you wouldn't want to miss out.

(Not FYGM, just being pragmatic.)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:49 AM on April 8, 2020

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