Sometimes, an employer may offer you a severance package when he or she terminates your employment. While we’ve all heard of the company executive who accepts the golden parachute and comfortably lands on his or her feet, not all severance packages are that generous or even beneficial. Just because you received an offer of a severance package doesn’t mean that you should definitely take it.

An employer who offers you a severance package must have good reason to do so. In most instances, an employer is not bound by state or federal law to offer severance packages to terminated employees, so you should not accept the offer until you understand why your employee offered it.

Once you understand why you received the offer, you can either accept, decline or negotiate the terms of the offer.

In many cases, this is a tricky area to navigate for those without much experience in employment and contract law. It is wise to enlist the help of an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process and ensure you only accept an offer that truly benefits you.

Your employer is abiding by a contract

The simplest and usually the most preferable reason to receive a severance offer is because your employment contract stipulates that you get it under certain circumstances. If an employer offers you severance in accordance with your employment contract, you should review your contract and make sure that you fully understand the terms.

It is possible that your employer can make you a better offer, which can help ease the transition out of the job.

Your employer wants to avoid trouble

Unfortunately, in many cases, an employer may offer a terminated employee a severance package as a way to bargain for their silence over a potential conflict. Does accepting your severance package depend on signing and sticking by a non-disclosure agreement, especially pertaining to some recent work dispute?

If, for instance, you reported discrimination of some kind to a superior, an employer may attempt to let you go and offer severance with an agreement to not discuss the discrimination accusations or pursue further actions.

Should you experience this, it’s important to consult with an experienced attorney who understands how to fight for employees’ rights in the workplace. Even if the severance is substantial, you may not want to accept an employer’s offer to buy your silence — especially if means sacrificing the safety or dignity of other employees.

Don’t wait to decide

However you choose to proceed, be sure to gather good counsel. Severance packages are usually only on the table for so long, so you must take stock of the situation quickly but calmly and decide how to move forward.