Firm makes sure workers don’t sell themselves short. Career Protection helps those in severance and employment situations.

By Chris Walsh, Rocky Mountain News
September 20, 2006

The phone calls began trickling into Career Protection early last week, fueled by rumors that Ford Motor Co. was looking to cut more jobs.

On Thursday, when Ford announced it would offer buyouts to its 75,000 hourly workers, that trickle turned into a flood.

Many Ford employees wanted advice on whether to accept the offer; others wondered if they’d be able to negotiate a better buyout package. One said he was offered $1,000 for each year of service and asked if he was getting a good deal.

Career Protection’s response: “No way,” said Kirk Nemer, founder, president and chief executive officer of the company. “It was a ridiculously lowball offer.”

Career Protection has been growing rapidly in an economy where mass layoffs and business shake-ups like the one at Ford are all too common.

The firm works mainly with people leaving companies through buyouts, layoffs or retirements, helping them obtain better severance packages. But it also assists those on the other end of the spectrum, guiding new hires through the process of negotiating higher pay and benefits.

“What most people don’t realize is that they have employment rights,” Nemer said during a recent interview. “Severance and employment agreements are not take-it-or-leave-it situations.”

Nemer should know.

He has two decades of experience in employment law and worked in executive-level human resources positions at Fortune 500 companies, conducting more than a dozen layoffs in his career. Other executives at Career Protection worked in those fields as well.

“What we realized, having been on the inside, is that companies have a human resources department and corporate counsel on their side,” Nemer said. “Employees need them too.”

Career Protection’s services include developing pay and benefit plans based on the client’s situation, reviewing severance agreements to ensure they comply with federal and state laws, negotiating directly with the employer if needed and providing 24-hour support.

Nemer said most people don’t realize they can negotiate for extended pay, health benefits and other terms of their departure. Employees also are quick to sign severance agreements, focusing primarily on the pay and overlooking key areas.

On the hiring side, workers don’t know that they can and should negotiate. Or they simply feel lucky just to have landed the job and don’t think it’s their place to ask for more.

Career Protection has a 20-year database of employment and severance agreements from companies worldwide, so employees “know what they’re worth and what they should ask for,” Nemer said.

The company boasts an 85 percent success rate of doubling or even tripling severance and employment packages.

It worked for Mary Simpson, who used Career Protection last year to help negotiate a severance package when she decided to leave her executive job at a global software company based in Florida.

“They strategized with me, told (me) what is reasonable to ask for at my level and under my circumstances,” said Simpson, who first had tried a law firm but was unhappy with its recommendations. “That way we could go forth in confidence and request what I wanted from the company.”

The company has worked with employees at companies ranging from Domino’s Pizza and Starbucks to United Airlines and Berkshire Hathaway. Clients include lower-level workers up to senior executives at corporations, and most are between the ages of 40 and 59. About 38 percent come from the finance and professional services industry, and many hail from California, Texas, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, and worldwide.

Coupling the human resources and legal sides together in one company is part of what makes Career Protection different.

“There are companies that focus on each one of those, but I personally haven’t heard of the two combined,” said Sue Murphy, manager of the National Human Resources Association, an industry trade group.

“The fact is that we know how the game is played,” Nemer said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re growing so fast.”

Some advice and insight from Kirk Nemer, president and CEO of Career Protection:

  • When you get an employment offer, take it home and review it, even if you’re pleased with it. Give it 24 hours. The same goes for severance packages. Don’t give an immediate answer.
  • When negotiating any type of compensation package, the first person who states a dollar amount loses. Let the employer make the offer first.
  • Whether it’s an employment offer, severance agreement or a buyout offer, it’s never a take-it-or- leave-it situation. Everything is negotiable.