You just got fired. What should you do next?

More US workers given pink slips as Fed slams economic brakes in an effort slow inflationwith layoff announcements surging in September.

Job cuts rose 46% from August to nearly 30,000 in September. Workers suddenly out in the cold may be wondering about their rights when they lose their jobs and what steps to take when they’re laid off – key issues that are easy to overlook in the heat of a difficult time, but which can seriously affect immediate financial prospects of a person after dismissal.

“Most workers don’t realize how much is at stake with a termination or separation for a reason other than misconduct,” said New York employment attorney Christopher Q. Davis. “There’s a lot of money and rights at stake that most people don’t think about, and there’s really a lot that could go wrong.”

Most workers in the US are employed under “at-will” agreements that allow the employee or the employer to terminate the agreement at any time, for any reason, as long as it is non-discriminatory.

However, there are state and federal laws that may entitle workers to compensation and benefits if they are fired. And even if a company isn’t legally required to pay severance pay, it could have a policy to help laid-off workers until they find a new job.

Make sure you qualify for unemployment

One of the first things a laid-off worker should do is make sure they are eligible for unemployment benefits through their state’s labor department. Generally, if workers lose their jobs through no fault of their own, they can file for unemployment benefits. But companies sometimes unfairly question workers’ unemployment eligibility, according to Davis.

“Make sure the company recognizes that your complaint is eligible for unemployment,” he said. “That’s something that can be discussed. Say, ‘Hey, you’re not going to question my eligibility.’

If the worker has committed an offence, he will not be entitled to unemployment benefits.

“A lot of people go through the unemployment process without asking for help. It’s self-advocacy,” Davis said.

If you are part of a mass layoff

If your job loss is due to the closing of an entire facility — for example, if a company closes a manufacturing plant, resulting in widespread layoffs — the company must provide at least 60 days’ notice under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice (WARN) Impersonate .

“If you get fired and the company doesn’t give notice, you have to claim,” Davis said.

Additionally, if you are the victim of a mass layoff and believe you have been discriminated against, consult an attorney. “With mass layoffs, things are thrown together randomly, and layoffs are fraught with bias,” Davis said.

It is illegal for companies to fire people based on protected characteristics, such as race, age, or gender, or to fire someone in retaliation for protected activity, such as reporting wrongdoing or organizing a union.

Ask for a complete list of everyone fired, including their titles and ages, to determine if the action was discriminatory. “If it disproportionately affects a protected class, then there can be a discrimination case,” Davis said.

Can I get redundancy pay?

US workers have a fairly weak government safety net to support them after a layoff, and often have little access to information about their rights when an employer downsizes.

Companies are not required by law to pay severance pay to employees unless it has been negotiated as part of a contract or executive compensation package. However, many employers have policies that entitle former employees to compensation and benefits.

“Just because someone has been fired or laid off doesn’t entitle them to any kind of severance or severance package. There’s no right to that,” said Laura Reathaford, a Los Angeles-based employment attorney at Lathrop. GPM.

But laid-off workers can negotiate severance packages if offered.

“If you are offered an severance package, then you have the right to review it and consult with an attorney about the terms,” ​​Reithaford said.

Most severance packages require the employee, in exchange for additional compensation and benefits, to give up the right to sue the employer or speak negatively about the employer. It’s up to the employee to decide if they want to accept the terms, Rutherford said.

“What you give up as an employee, in exchange for money, is the right to sue your employer for anything,” he said. “If the employer does not want to give you more money, you have the right to leave and not sign the agreement.”

How about health insurance?

Under COBRA, employees can generally extend their health insurance over a period of time, but they may have to pay the full premium for coverage that would otherwise end with the employee. This could mean a big increase in premiums.

“Ask your employer when your medical insurance ends, understand your COBRA rights and how much it will cost to keep your medical benefits after termination,” said Carrie Hoffman, an employment attorney at Foley & Lardner in Texas.

Vacation allowance

Employees may also be entitled to compensation for unused vacation days, depending on the state.

For example, in California employees who accrue unused paid time off are required by law to be paid for that time in their employer’s final salary.

In contrast, “Other states are ‘use it or lose it,’ meaning if the employee hasn’t used their vacation, once employment ends they’re not entitled to compensation,” said California employment attorney Anthony Zaller.

Rules of thumb

Certainly, a productive worker who has built up goodwill with his employer might ask for a positive reference or access to resources, such as career counseling, that could help him find a new job. Some employers voluntarily pay for job search counseling services.

“It’s always worth asking the question and having an honest conversation about what you want and need. Asking for a layoff is perfectly fine—as is asking for help finding a new job and a positive letter of recommendation.” Reathaford said.

Added Hoffman: “As unpleasant as it may be to be terminated, I always recommend not burning bridges and trying to work with, as opposed to the opposite of, whatever the situation may be. In theory, there may be opportunities within the company. . Ask if they are eligible to be rehired.”

In other words, mine your employer for information and try to leave on a positive note.

“Don’t be rude on your way out. Keep your professionalism intact,” said career expert Vicki Salemi.

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