Absent a clause in the severance agreement that prohibits the employee from obtaining unemployment benefits, a worker can get unemployment benefits even with a severance agreement.
The employee must be totally off the company payroll before applying for unemployment benefits. In some cases the employer will pay the severance to the employee out of the payroll system. That may mean that the employee continues to get normal paychecks for a period of time until the severance amount is paid. In these instances the employer may then retain the employee as still employed in an inactive status.
Many times the employer will do this while assisting the employee to find a new job through an outplacement association. That will delay unemployment benefits until the severance is paid in full. In the majority of cases the employee is provided with a check for the full amount of severance on the date of separation from the employer and can apply for unemployment immediately following.