Women can’t be given less severance pay, court says

A county administrator could sue her employer for giving her a less favorable severance package than her male colleagues when her job was eliminated, a federal appeals court in Virginia decided recently.

The employee was offered three months’ pay and health benefits in exchange for her voluntary resignation and written agreement not to sue.

But she claimed that some male employees with similar jobs were allowed to keep their salary and benefits by transferring to positions with less responsibility. Others were kept on the payroll with benefits for six months or more in order to enhance their retirement benefits, she said.

Instead of taking the severance package, she sued.

The county argued that the lawsuit was invalid because the woman had no “right” to a severance package in the first place, and the county could simply have let her go with no pay or benefits at all.

But the court said that even if the woman had no contractual right to severance, an employer still can’t engage in sex discrimination when making decisions about laying off employees.