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Signed Release of Claims for Severance - but Employer isn't Paying.

I was laid off and was entitled to three weeks severance, provided I signed a release of claims to get it. The release of claims said that I would be paid on normal payroll dates via direct deposit. The date on which I was to be paid came and went, with no payment. I e-mailed my former boss and he essentially re-iterated what the severance agreement said and said he'd look into it. Now a week has gone by and I still haven't been paid or informed of anything.

I was relying on this to be paid on time to take care of bills. How long do I have to wait to seek legal action? Do I have legal action? Should I be talking to a lawyer at this point? If he kept me on payroll as he said he did, this would not be an issue so I get the feeling something shady is going on.

Now this release of claims did not include payout of vacation time. My employment contract gave me two weeks vacation, with no accrual period. Do I have a right for those two weeks to be paid out as well?

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At a minimum, your severance agreement is a contract that your former employer breached when it failed to make the payments on the specified date. You could sue for breach of contract and, if the agreement allows for attorney's fees, to recover your legal fees as well. You should talk to an employment law attorney about this matter. There was a case recently in which a MA Superior Court Judge held that severance pay falls within the definition of "wages" as that term is defined in the Massachusetts Payment of Wages Act. The significance of that finding is that it allowed the plaintiff to collect triple damages and attorney's fees. The facts were a little odd in that case(Juergens v. MicroGroup, Inc.) and the decision is not binding on other courts, but the decision is another reason to talk to an employment law attorney. Also, unused vacation time is considered wages under the Payment of Wages Act.

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