Severance Pay and Unemployment Benefits

On February 1, 2014, I advised you of a court decision, Wynn v. Arizona Department of Economic Security, that held employees who receive severance in exchange for signing a release of claims were not disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. In a swift rebuke of the Wynn decision, the AZ legislature has passed legislation that disqualifies an ex-employee from collecting unemployment benefits during a severance pay period, whether or not the ex-employee signs a release of claims. The legislature took this action to prevent what it saw as employee double-dipping and to protect the solvency of the state’s unemployment trust fund. When this law goes into effect on July 24, 2014, employers can rest assured that departing employees who receive severance pay will not be eligible for unemployment benefits until after the severance pay period expires.