In a move that’s drawing criticism from some current employees, SunTrust Banks has included a clause in its severance deal which requires IT employees to be “reasonably available” to provide assistance to SunTrust regarding matters that they worked on while employed by SunTrust, for a period of two years after being terminated. The clause states that employees will not be entitled to compensation for their assistance. This deal will affect about 100 IT employees who have been informed of their impending termination, many of whom are already training their replacements.
Many of the soon to be laid off SunTrust employees consider this clause a requirement to be on call to provide assistance without pay. However, SunTrust took issue with the characterization that the contract requires former employees to be on call, stating, “It is a rare occasion when we need to call a former employee. The ‘continuing cooperation’ clause is designed to assist the company under scenarios that arise infrequently when we need access to knowledge possessed by a former employee. Those scenarios primarily relate to regulatory or legal matters. For instance, we may need to reach out to former employees to ensure we accurately understand situations in which they were involved while employed by the company. SunTrust has never used this provision to require a former employee to be ‘on call’ to help conduct day-to-day business in any way.”
Despite assurances from SunTrust, many remain suspicious that the bank is trying to steal time from former employees. The overly broad language in the contract is cause for concern, and does not in any way narrow the assistance to regulatory or legal matters, even though SunTrust claims that is the primary purpose of the clause. Sara Blackwell, a Florida lawyer, believes that requiring former employees to provide assistance without pay would be in violation of the Fair Standards Labor Act. A clause which is illegal is unenforceable, however SunTrust may be counting on employees to provide assistance without bothering to challenge the legality of the contract in court.
The full clause was posted by ComputerWorld as a follow-up to their initial article, so that readers could draw their own conclusions about the deal. It states:
“For a period of two (2) years following the end of my employment with SunTrust, I agree to provide assistance and to make myself reasonably available to SunTrust regarding matters in which I have been involved in the course my employment with SunTrust and/or about which I have knowledge as a result of my employment with SunTrust. It is understood and agreed that such assistance, to the extent possible, will be requested at such times and in such a manner so as to not unreasonably interfere with my subsequent employment. Such assistance may include, but is not limited to, telephone or in-person meetings with SunTrust employees, attorneys and/or accountants, or the provision of truthful testimony by way of deposition, hearing, trial, interview, subpoena response or affidavit. SunTrust will be responsible for any reasonable and necessary expenses incurred by me and approved by SunTrust in connection with such services. I understand that I will not be entitled to any additional consideration or compensation of any kind from SunTrust in exchange for such assistance”
Is this a sneaky underhanded move by SunTrust, or is this continued cooperation clause perfectly reasonable? Leave your comments below.