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Monday, October 3,2011

Legal Insight

By Scott J. Topolski  
Q: My position with an Illinoisbased company was eliminated earlier this year. At the time, I was about halfway through a three-year employment contract. My former employer and I entered into a severance agreement in which it promised, amongst other things, to pay 60 percent of my salary and all of my insurance benefits for the remainder of the term of the employment agreement. The severance agreement also contained a provision that any lawsuit arising from it would have to be brought in Illinois. My former employer stopped paying me several months ago. I have two questions: a.) can I sue; and b.) must I sue in Illinois?

A: The answer to both question is yes. Your severance agreement with your former employer appears to be a valid contract. Your ex-employer undertook certain obligations in that contract, including paying you 60 percent of your salary for approximately 18 months. But now, failing to pay you, it has breached the severance agreement and you can certainly sue it for the breach. Because, however, the agreement states that any such lawsuit must be brought in Illinois and because Florida courts routinely enforces such provisions, which are called choice of venue provisions, chances are you are going to have to sue in an Illinois court, unless the agreement has no connection to Illinois. Since your former employer is based in Illinois, it would appear that such a connection exists.


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