If you are negotiating a severance agreement--and you may have to request one because your employer may not offer it--here are some things to consider.
1. Show me the money.
The obvious reason for negotiating a severance agreement is to obtain money. There is no hard and fast rule about how much you could get. Except for very high-level positions, the general rule is one week of salary for every year of service. You can get more if your company believes it is avoiding a lawsuit. All severance agreements include a broad release by you of all claims that you might have against your employer. This, in essence, is what the employer is "buying" with the severance agreement. If you have a potential claim against the company, the value of the release increases. Of course, raising a potential claim is a delicate issue. It could get you a higher severance agreement, but it may also result in burned bridges with your former employer. This is also one area in which bringing a lawyer to the table can help. If you are asserting that you have claims against the company, it is more likely to take you seriously if you have counsel.
2. Be a consultant.
Some companies are reluctant to characterize any money paid to you as a "severance" agreement. One way around this is to offer to be a "consultant" to the company, essentially doing your same job, for a period corresponding to the amount of severance. In most cases, the company will not actually want you to do any work, so the payment will in effect be a settlement agreement. Of course, consider the tax consequences of any such agreement. Payments pursuant to such an agreement will almost certainly be considered wages, and you will have to pay taxes on them.
3. Watch out for taxes.
Watch for any provision that will require you to indemnify the company for any tax consequences of the settlement. What this means is that the company wants you to pay its lawyers if the IRS comes after the company claiming it should have characterized the settlement as wages and withheld taxes. There are limited circumstances in which it may be advisable to agree to such a provision, but as a general rule, this is not a good idea because it could result in a legal bill from the company that exceeds the amount of settlement.