If you are about to be fired (or just got fired)…What Should You Do?
Whether you see your own layoff on the horizon or think it could never happen to you, it is important to be prepared for a layoff in today’s economic climate. Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. recently told the New York Times, that the state of our economy right now is “indistinguishable from a recession.” Families are “losing jobs, and they’re getting a double bite as wage growth slows down and inflation kicks up. People are losing out on both ends.” Part of any economic downturn includes layoffs, as companies often look to cutting their payroll as a first option for eliminating costs.
Treading lightly around the office or storming out is the wrong move and could adversely affect your chances of a severance package or preserving your rights. Losing your job can be, and often is a traumatic experience (it ranks up there with divorce, death or bankruptcy for many people). Being prepared for a layoff and knowing your legal rights can help to minimize the negative aspects, and even turn it into a positive event for you and your career growth. So, what should you do?
The first reaction for most terminated employees is an emotional one. The pressures of financial and familial obligations can be overwhelming when you see your job and cash flow flash before your eyes. However, your last few hours in the workplace may be your best chance to get important information regarding your employment. If you can, obtain an electronic or hard copy of your personal files (including contact lists, photos), any performance reviews, customer/client commendations, or emails which you think may be important. [In California, you have the right to view your personnel file (California Labor Code §1198.5), which contains important information regarding your hiring, employment and possibly your termination. Ask human resources for a copy of your file before you leave on your last day.
If you believe your termination was (or will be) wrongful, or if you simply are not sure please fill out our free wrongful termination submission form on our website for a free, no obligation review. You can also call us at 415.955.0888 or 310.726.0888. Many times these cases start with circumstantial evidence (i.e. it just seems like it was wrong, or something doesn’t seem right). Use our free case submission to organize your facts and submit it to us.
The law favors those who act on their rights. Undue delays result in a violation of a statute of limitations, causing you to lose your rights. Acting quickly also increases the likelihood that evidence (witnesses, documents, etc.) will be available.
Do not let company management or human resources intimidate or coerce you into signing anything which you have not fully read or do not understand. Ask questions, ask for time to consult your own attorney – this is a reasonable request that any company should grant. Yes, you may be losing your job, but you don’t want to lose any of your legal rights. Most companies have form separation and release agreements on file for such an occasion which release the company of any and all liability. Do not take the word of a co-worker or superior as to the contents of any document you sign. Ensure you know what the consequences of signing are and consult an attorney.
Many times, we meet with clients to hear their stories and collect important information about their employment. More often than not, clients call us two, three, even ten days later to say, “I just remembered, there was that one time when . . .” Details can often slip your mind when you are being ushered out your office door, or rumors of layoffs have your head spinning. After conversations or meetings regarding your termination or related events, write down the date, time, and details of each. Ideally, you will already have a record of key workplace related evets written down in a personal notebook or on your home computer (not at the office).
Reliving the details of your layoff may be the last thing you want to do. However, writing down the details in an orderly chronology [date, time, event] will help you recall events to the best of your ability and better assist any attorney who tries to assess your situation or make an argument on your behalf. The smallest details can make the biggest of differences, and many times you may not recognize what those important details are until after consulting with an attorney.
It is perfectly acceptable to ask a friend, or co-worker, to sit in on the meeting and take notes. Having a more objective listener’s perspective can add more details to your timeline, bring a sense of calm to the proceeding and of course serve as a witness.
Lastly, apply for unemployment benefits. You can apply via the web at https://eapply4ui.edd.ca.gov/. It is important to do this as soon as possible after your termination. Some people, especially in the higher earning salary brackets (six figures and up) feel reluctant to apply for unemployment. Our position is: Apply for it. You pay into it while you are working, and it is another source (other than your personal savings) to help you bridge the gap economically until you land your next job.
Adishian Law Group is a California law firm with a statewide practice in the areas of Corporate law, Employment law, Real Estate law and Mediation Services. Adishianlaw.com is one of the oldest continually operating law firm websites on the Internet. The firm serves its clientele via three offices located in the major business hubs of El Segundo, Palo Alto and San Francisco. As of March 2013, Adishian Law Group, P.C. has represented individual and corporate clients located across 20 California counties, 4 States outside of California and 9 foreign countries — in over 340 legal matters.
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