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Job Events: Termination

What are the top 10 questions related to job termination that I should ask about my stock options, restricted stock/RSUs, or ESPP participation?

To protect your outstanding grants and prevent problems when you leave your job, you should know the answers to the following questions that apply to you.

1. With stock options, what happens if I terminate my employment before the option grant is fully vested?

2. Will I forfeit my restricted stock or RSUs if my employment ends before the vesting date(s)?

3. How long does the company give me to exercise vested stock options after job termination, and will this cause problems with ISOs? Does the reason for termination matter? What are the most common company practices?

4. What does my severance agreement cover on outstanding grants of options or restricted stock/RSUs?

5. How does my company treat unvested restricted stock and RSUs in the event of voluntary job termination, involuntary job loss, retirement, disability, or death? Would the treatment be the same for performance shares?

6. If I leave the company and thus end participation in its ESPP, what will happen to the money that has been deducted from my paycheck to purchase ESPP shares?

7. With stock options and restricted stock/RSUs, does vesting stop when I give my notice/resignation or on the actual date of job termination?

8. Will the company withhold taxes from income I receive upon the exercise of stock options or SARs, or upon restricted stock/RSU vesting, even when I am no longer an employee?

9. If my company rehires me, can my prior stock options or restricted stock/RSUs be reinstated? Is there a noncompete that could limit my freedom to work elsewhere or trigger a clawback of past gains?

10. Can a leave of absence be a termination of employment that stops vesting and causes grants to expire?

Alert: In addition, before you leave the company, be sure that you will have continued access to its stock plan website to see your outstanding equity awards and your stock holdings. Confirm that you will be able to follow the same procedures for option exercises (or learn the new ones), and be sure that you will receive the same company notices that you did as an employee.

See also this website's two-part article series on job loss and stock compensation.

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