Chris Liebrum, as the BGCT’s previous HR director, provides the following information about employee separation agreements in order to give it historical context and to provide understanding as to its purposes:
“I was director of human resources at the BGCT from 1999 to 2005. I am not exactly sure when we began using these agreements, but they were already in place when I started my HR work with BGCT in 1999. The practice was in place before Charles Wade began his work as executive director.
“A person may leave a company, business or a church for a number of reasons. The employee may choose to leave, the employer could terminate the employee or the person could leave because of retirement. When an employee leaves, especially when they are terminated (fired) by the employer, there are generally circumstances that caused the termination. Many times these circumstances not only involve the terminated employee, but might involve current employees, family of employee, and the list goes on and on. Disclosure of the reason could be hurtful and embarrassing to innocent parties. It just seems that it is not only Christian, but good business practice to have everyone agree to not discuss the details or circumstances related to the leaving. Because HR law is built on the fundamental principle that you must treat everyone equally, these agreements are equally applied. Most employees choose to accept the agreement, but a few refuse.
“The purpose for the agreement is not to muzzle anyone or to be seen as hush money. The severance money is given to help people transition to their next job. I might add that criminal behavior is not protected by these agreements. If there were circumstances related to either the employee or the employer that violated local state or federal law, there would be no binding on either party to not disclose information.
“The idea of these agreements was never initiated from the BGCT executive director or HR staff. Because of the HR liability that any organization might have legal counsel has recommended this practice. Although they may not be common in small businesses or even some churches, I think you will discover that this is a common practice both in businesses and non- profit organizations. During my time as HR director I had several churches call requesting information about these agreements.
“It has been my observation through the years that our convention has tried to be fair and consistent in dealing with employees who leave our work force for any reason. Of course, when someone is fired or their job is eliminated it is going to be difficult for them to have much patience with their former employer no matter what agreement or severance is offered. There is probably no amount of severance that is going to make them feel OK. No matter how much severance you provided some will be absolutely convinced that it is not enough while others not involved will criticize you for giving away too much money. Although there have been exceptions, the one thing you can know is that our folks have tried to be consistent.”