A controversial severance clause by SunTrust Banks requiring laid-off employees to be available to help without pay, has been removed, the bank said on Friday.
SunTrust is laying off approximately 100 IT employees as it shifts their duties to IT contractors. The employees have been training overseas workers to take their jobs.
The severance agreements received by employees included a "continuing cooperation" clause requiring each worker "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."
Bank IT employees believed this broadly worded clause was essentially an on-call provision, requiring them to provide technical help as needed without additional pay. The bank disputed that interpretation, and said the intent was to limit such help to legal matters. The full clause is published here.
The bank, in a statement released late Friday morning, had a change of heart.
"We understand that a clause in our severance agreement was misconstrued versus its use in actual practice, and therefore, we have removed it," said a bank spokesman in an emailed statement.
SunTrust plans to remove the clause from the severance packages it has already issued.
Continuing cooperation clauses are very common in severance agreements given to high-level executives, but not mid-level or technical workers, according to lawyers. Those agreements can include additional payments.
According to SunTrust workers, the bank's standard severance agreement amounts to two weeks of pay per year of employment.
There was a particularly strong reaction on social media to the clause, with the overwhelming majority critical of it. The clause was seen as ill-advised by many commenters, particularly if the bank does indeed need the help of former workers.