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Faced with a Severance Agreement? Take Time Before You Sign!

Diane Williamson, Esq.

Please note that the information contained in this post is for informational purposes and is not to be considered legal advice. This blog post does not create or imply an attorney-client relationship. If you would like to discuss your particular circumstances with us, please set up a consultation by contacting the Satter Ruhlen Law Firm at 315-471-0405 or through our website (https://www.satterlaw.com/contact-us/). We look forward to walking you through your workplace rights.

When you sign a severance agreement, you are likely agreeing to release your employer from all potential liability under, inter alia, state and federal employment laws. If your employer presents you with a severance agreement, you have little to gain, and potentially a lot to lose, if you succumb to the employer’s pressure to sign the document without taking time to consider the terms and consult with a lawyer or other trusted advisor.


Does the agreement contain a non-compete clause that unreasonably restricts your ability to find work? Have you been a victim of discrimination? Has your employer paid out all the wages and vacation pay due? Did you complain about unsafe or illegal working conditions prior to your termination? Could a legal claim against your employer provide you with leverage to negotiate improved terms? Will you be eligible for unemployment benefits if you receive severance pay?

For answers to these questions and many others that may arise, take time to consult with an attorney before you sign a severance agreement.

Satter Ruhlen presents: Workplace Bullying CLE Feb. 25, 2021

President Trump Eliminates Job Protections for Civil Servants

By Diane Williamson

On October 21, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order to change the civil service rules and make many civil servants more like at-will employees.[1] The executive order weakens civil service protections for five of the six classifications of federal civil service employees, stating:

“Except as required by statute, the Civil Service Rules and Regulations shall not apply to removals from positions listed in Schedules A, C, D, E, or F, or from positions excepted from the competitive service by statute.”[2] (emphasis added)

It is unclear from the Executive Order which rules and regulations can be circumvented. Normally civil service employees, after a year-long probationary period, can only be terminated for unacceptable performance or conduct. In other words, they can only be terminated for cause. Additionally, civil service employees ordinarily have due process rights before they are terminated. While the White House has stated that whistle-blower protections still apply, it remains to be seen which job protections will be eliminated.[3]  

Most notably, the executive order creates a new classification of employees, Schedule F, who will be easy to hire and fire. Schedule F is for employees in positions “of a confidential, policy determining, policy making, or policy advocating character.”[4] As noted above, Schedule F employees can be terminated without regard for civil service rules. Employees can be hired into Schedule F without reference to the competitive hiring rules and civil service examinations, which would otherwise preclude political favoritism and nepotism. Agency heads must determine which employees from the other classifications should be changed to Schedule F. The Office of Personnel Management stated that employees placed in Schedule F cannot appeal that decision.

Schedule F employees will be even easier to fire because they can potentially be excluded from union representation. Without an employment contract, they become at-will employees and can be fired for almost any reason.

The executive order allows the President to easily terminate those employees whom he perceives to be critics. The President argues that the executive order is necessary to hold federal employees to high performance standards, but civil service law already allows for terminating employees who do not meet performance standards. And it is difficult to see how employees will be held to a higher standard if they can be hired without competition or examination.

Ronald Sanders, the Head of the Federal Salary Council and lifelong Republican, resigned in protest. He wrote: “I simply cannot be part of an Administration that seeks . . . to replace apolitical expertise with political obeisance. Career Federal employees are legally and duty-bound to be nonpartisan; they take an oath to preserve and protect our Constitution and the rule of law . . . not to be loyal to a particular President or Administration.”[5]

The National Treasury Employees Union has filed a lawsuit, asking the DC court to block the order from being implement and House Democratic Leaders introduced the “Saving the Civil Service Act.”


[1] 5 C.F.R. 6.2, 6.4

[2] https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-creating-schedule-f-excepted-service/

[3] https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/23/politics/trump-executive-order-federal-employees/index.html

[4] Id.

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-civil-servants-resign/2020/10/26/69d05a22-17a4-11eb-82db-60b15c874105_story.html

Welcome, Diane!

We are pleased to announce that attorney Diane Williamson, Esq., has joined the Satter Ruhlen Law Firm.

Diane earned her J.D., magna cum laude, from Syracuse University College of Law in 2019. She came to us from the Hiscock Legal Aid Society’s Civil Department, where she defended low income tenants in landlord tenant court. Before law school, she taught philosophy at Syracuse University, amongst other colleges in New York, and she is the author/editor of two books on Kant.

Diane grew up in Oregon and went to college in Iowa, at Grinnell College. After living in several other states, she moved to Syracuse in 2008, where she now lives with her two children. In her free time she volunteers at May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society and Eastern Farmworkers Association.

Diane enjoys running, swimming, hiking, and camping.

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