Concerns About Being Laid Off
Layoffs and Plant Closings: Know Your Rights
If you've lost your job in a layoff, you are no doubt concerned about your finances, benefits, and finding new work.
There is help available to laid-off workers from the government, in the form of unemployment compensation. But your former employer has legal obligations as well.
This article explains your legal rights in a layoff, including what your former employer is required to do for you.
Final Paychecks After a Layoff
For most laid-off workers, money is the biggest concern. You are entitled to receive your final paycheck within time limits set by state law.
Some states give employees who have been laid off or fired a right to receive their paychecks quickly, sometimes on the day they lose their jobs or a day or two later. Other states allow employers to wait until the next regularly scheduled payday to cut a final check.
To check your state's law on final paychecks, see Nolo's article Chart: Final Paychecks for Departing Employees.In a number of states, employers must include a departing employee's accrued vacation time (but not sick time) in the employee's final paycheck.
Some states, such as California, give all employees this legal right; other states only require employers to pay out unused vacation time if their policies or practices provide for it.
To find out how your state handles this issue, contact your state labor department. (You can find a list of links at www.dol.gov, the official website of the federal Department of Labor.)
Generally, employees who lose their jobs in a layoff have no automatic right to severance pay. However, there are a few exceptions:
- Mass layoff severance. In a few states, employers are required to provide a small amount of severance as part of a large layoff or plant closing. See “State Warn Laws,” below.
- Employer policies or practices of paying out severance. If your employer has a policy of paying severance to all employees (or at least to all employees who are laid off or otherwise lose their jobs through no fault of their own), you might be legally entitled to a severance payment. Courts sometimes interpret a regular history of paying out severance as a contract—or promise by your employer—to pay severance to all laid off employees.
- Your employment contract promises severance. Most employees work at will, meaning that they aren’t guaranteed employment for a particular period of time. However, employers do use employment contracts with certain employees, and these contracts might promise severance in the event the employee is laid off.
If you think you may have a legal right to severance that your former employer is not honoring, you should consider talking to an employment lawyer.
If you have been receiving health insurance coverage through your employer, you might have a legal right to continue those benefits for at least 18 months.
A federal law called Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives employees (and their dependents) the right to continue their health insurance coverage for a period of time after losing their jobs. However, employees are responsible for paying the full cost of the premium, at the group rate negotiated by their former employer.
COBRA applies to employers with 20 or more employees, but some states have similar laws that might apply to smaller employers. (For more information see our article on your rights when you leave your job.)
Federal WARN Act
The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) requires larger employers to give employees notice 60 days before an impending plant closing or mass layoff that will result in job losses for a specified number or percentage of employees. If an employer fails to give the required notice, the employee can collect wages and benefits for every day that notice is late, up to 60 days.
WARN applies only to employees with 100 or more employees, and only if there is a plant closing or mass layoff. The law defines these terms as follows:
- A plant closing is the permanent or temporary shutdown of a single employment site or one or more facilities or operating units with a single site, which results in job loss for 50 or more employees (not including those who work fewer than 20 hours per week) during a 30-day period.
- A mass layoff is a reduction in force that results in job loss at a single employment site, during a 30-day period, for (1) 500 or more employees (not including those who work fewer than 20 hours per week), or (2) 50 to 499 employees (not including those who work fewer than 20 hours per week), if the laid-off employees make up at least one-third of the employer's active workforce.
The law also covers staged plant closings or layoffs, which are defined the same as above but occur in stages over a period of 90 days. This rule is intended to prevent employers from getting around the law's requirements by conducting a series of smaller layoffs.
There are some exceptions to the notice requirement. If, for example, an employer closes a temporary facility or the layoffs result from a strike or lockout, the employer doesn't have to provide notice.
And employers may give less than 60 days' notice in some circumstances, including when the layoff is the result of a natural disaster or business circumstances that weren't reasonably foreseeable 60 days in advance.
State Warn Laws
More than half of the states also have laws that require employers to give notice of a layoff. Some of these laws apply to smaller employers (or smaller layoffs) than the federal WARN Act. And some require employers to do more than provide notice.
For example, Connecticut employers that permanently shut down or relocate their facility state must pay to continue their former employees' health insurance for 120 days.
In Maine, employers that discontinue business operations or relocate at least 100 miles away must pay one week of severance for each year of employment to employees who have been with the company for at least three years. To learn about your state's rules, contact your state labor department.
In all states, employees who are laid off are eligible for unemployment benefits, as long as they meet other eligibility requirements. To learn more, see our state articles on collecting unemployment benefits.
For additional information on employee rights, get Your Rights in the Workplace, by Barbara Repa (Nolo), or visit Nolo's Lawyer Directory to view personal profiles of employment law attorneys in your geographic area.
Difference Between Laid-off and Fired (with Similarities and Comparison Chart)
When an employee leaves the organisation, the situation is known as separation. The cause of separation can be voluntary or involuntary.
In the former, the employee decides to terminate his/her relationship with the employer, but when the employer initiates the separation, it is an involuntary separation.
Being laid-off and fired are two types of involuntary separation, wherein laid off is due to the inability of the employer to give employment to the employee.
On the other hand, the firing of an employee occurs when the employee is terminated due to his/her fault.
When an employee is laid-off, it is only for a short period, whereas when an employee is fired, he/she can never join the organization again. The article presented to you, explains the difference between laid-off and fired, in detail.
Content: Laid-off Vs Fired
- Comparison Chart
- Key Differences
|Meaning||Lay-off implies the provisional suspension of an employee or a group of employees from work by the employer, due to the company's inability to provide employment.||In business terms, fire means to reduce an employee from work, against his/her will, due to under-performance or serious infraction.|
|Caused by||Downsizing, restructuring or economic downturn.||Employee's misconduct, poor performance or violation of policies.|
|New employment||Easy to find||Difficult to find|
|Degree of severity||Low||High|
Definition of Lay-off
The term layoff is used to refer a situation when an employee or a group of employees are temporarily separated, at the instance of the employer, for reasons such as slowdown or cyclical slump in revenue. It is an involuntary reduction in the workforce, due to failure, refusal or employer’s inability to provide employment to an employee, whose name exist on rolls.
The situation may be experienced because of machinery breakdown, economic recession, insufficiency of raw materials, accumulation of stock and so forth.
Lay-off occurs for a specified period, after the expiry of which the employee is recalled to join the job again. However, the term of lay-off can be extended to any length of time, and so the employer cannot anticipate, how long the situation may continue. During this time, the employee is paid compensation, which is equivalent to 50% of the basic salary.
Definition of Fire
To fire means to put an end to the employment, initiated by the employer against the will of the employee. Also known as dismissal or discharge, it is a drastic step, taken by the employer, after considering all the parameters, such as the performance, competence, skills, etc.
The decision to fire an employee must be supported by just and fair reasons which could be excessive absenteeism, theft of company’s property, serious misconduct, disobedience, harassing coworkers, poor performance, reporting to an office in an intoxicated state, incompetence, etc. Once the employee is fired, due to his own fault, it is tough to find a new job, especially when the cause for firing is serious infringement.
The points given below are noteworthy, so far as the difference between laid off and fired is concerned:
- The provisional suspension of an employee or a group of employees from work by the employer, due to the company’s inability to provide employment, is called lay-off. The reduction of an employee from work by the employer, against employee’s will, due to under-performance or serious infraction is known as fire.
- Lay-off is a temporary situation, i.e. the employee might be recalled by the employer for duty when the term of lay-off is over. On the contrary, when an employee is fired, there is no chance of getting the employment back, i.e. it is permanent.
- The reasons for lay-off include downsizing, restructuring or economic downturn. As against this, a person may be fired because of his own misconduct, incompetence or insubordination.
- When an employee is laid-off by the company, he/she is eligible to receive compensation. Conversely, when the employee is fired, he/she is not entitled to receive compensation from the employer.
- After termination, the position of a laid-off employee remains vacant, whereas the fired employee is immediately replaced with a new one.
- When the employee is laid-off, he/she can easily find a new job, as the reason for laid-off is beyond anybody’s control. However, when an employee is fired, it is hard to find a new job, because he was terminated from the job because of his performance or behaviour, which adversely affects his/her resume.
- The situation of being laid-off is less severe, as compared to being fired.
Both laid-off and fired, refers to employee’s cessation from work, i.e. he/she is no longer regarded employed by the company. The initiative of termination is taken by the employer. The employee is not going to receive wages or other benefits from the company anymore.
While laid-off entitles an employee for compensation and other unemployment benefits, this is not in the case of being fired, because, it occurs due to his own fault.
Both laid-off and fired are the worst thing that can happen to an employee, who is sole bread-earner in his/her family, as it is very difficult to find a new job immediately.
The most important differences between these two involuntary terminations are semantics.
How to Answer: Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?
I can guarantee you that this question will come up in your next job interview — and it is ly to come up more than once.
Unless you’ve never worked a day in your life (in which case, you should be focusing on other job interview challenges), you’ll need to be able to talk about why you left your last job and/or why you want to leave your current position.
Sometimes the answer is obvious and easy — you left your internship because it was a summer internship and summer ended. Other situations will require more explanation. For example, why did you leave that one position after only two months? Or maybe you’re making a big career change, and need to explain your goals and motivations.
Variations on this question include:
- Why are you looking for a new position now? This is for employed candidates considering a job change.
- Why did you leave your most recent position? This is for candidates who are not currently employed but have past experience. Maybe you quit your last position or were laid off. Maybe you’re a new grad who is making the transition from internship or part-time work to a “real” career-track job.
- Why did you leave Position X? Interviewers will be most interested in your current or most recent position. However, you should also be prepared to discuss all of your previous job transitions, especially if you left after a short tenure or have a resume gap.
Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?
Your reasons for leaving a job are always relevant for a potential employer. Here are some things your interviewer is ly looking for:
- Did you leave for a good reason? — If you left on a whim or for an odd reason (perhaps you suspected your boss was a space alien plotting your death), the interviewer will wonder if they can trust you to be responsible, loyal, and reasonable.
- Did you leave voluntarily? — If you were let go, your interviewer will want to try to determine if it was because of performance or integrity issues.
- Did you leave on good terms? –If you can state that you are still in touch with your previous manager (even better, he is one of your references), that will go a long way in demonstrating that you were a good employee and have good relationship skills.
- What are your work values? — Your reasons for leaving a position can say a lot about you. Did you leave for positive reasons or because you felt slighted or unappreciated? Sometimes it makes sense to leave a job if you’re not appreciated, but be aware that this reason should be expressed skillfully so you don’t appear to be a diva.
Let’s look at how to handle this question in its three most common forms:
1) Why are you looking for a new opportunity now?
This is for candidates who are currently employed. If you’ve got a job, why do you want to leave it?
Annoyingly enough, you’ll usually fare better in the job search if you already have a job. However, your potential employers will ALWAYS want to know why you’re thinking about bailing on your current gig.
There are many good reasons to leave a position — some that should be discussed in a job interview and some that absolutely should not.
The general rule here is that you should always be leaving to move toward a better opportunity. You should never position it as fleeing from a bad opportunity.
Your interviewer wants to feel her company is wooing you away from your current employer.
The ideal answer from their perspective: You are only thinking about leaving because this new opportunity (and the company offering it) is just SO awesome. Maybe you weren’t even looking.
Maybe you’re content in your current role, but just could not resist this interview because the position is your dream job.
Obviously, you want to avoid laying this on too thick and seeming insincere. You should never lie in a job interview. However, you should highlight the positive reasons for considering a new position and avoid talking about any negative ones if you can.In some situations, it will be necessary to talk about negative reasons. Perhaps your company is eliminating your department. Maybe the firm has been acquired by a competitor and massive layoffs are rumored.
Even in situations these, it’s a good idea to emphasize the positive and what you about the open position. You may want to address the negative situation briefly or you may want to avoid getting into the dirty details. It depends on the situation.
Sample Answer 1:
“I have been at my company for three years now and have learned a lot from working with some amazing salespeople.
I worked my way up to regional sales manager 18 months ago and my region has beat our sales projections by at least 25% each quarter since. However, I am starting to feel I need some new challenges.
This position really appeals to me because it would allow me to manage a bigger team and sell more innovative products.”
Why We It:
First, this candidate reminds the interviewer that he has had a respectable tenure at his firm and has been promoted.
He talks about his success in the role (it’s always good to look for opportunities to discuss your accomplishments).
Next, he shares a positive reason for wanting to leave — he wants to take on new challenges, he wants to stretch himself. He follows that up by talking about how the position at hand would be an exciting challenge for him.
Some candidates get this answer halfway right — they say that they are looking for new challenges and leave it at that. Without some detail around how you have conquered past challenges and why the new job would present exciting new ones, you can come across as too general and unconvincing.
Sample Answer 2:I have loved my time at Acme Financial and am really proud of the successful marketing campaigns that I have conceived and managed. However, I think the time has come for a change. We are going through some management changes right now and a lot of projects are on hold.
I have been thinking for a while that I’d to work for a bigger company with more opportunities for growth. This position seems a great fit because of my successful background in online marketing and my experience running a team.
Why We It:
Again, the candidate starts by acknowledging positive aspects about her current position and organization. She briefly addresses her company’s internal turmoil in very diplomatic terms, but puts the emphasis on her interest in the open position and her qualifications.
Sample Answer 3: Video
2) Why did you leave your most recent position?
If you are not currently employed, your answer to this question is even more important. It’s unfair, but many employers make assumptions about unemployed candidates. If you’re so great, why hasn’t somebody else snapped you up yet?
Again, I believe this is unfair bias. In the current economic environment, fantastic employees lose their jobs and it can take time to line up a new one. There is more competition for every opportunity.
However, it’s good to be aware that this bias exists when addressing the question of why you are available. And if you have been between jobs for a long period of time,you should be prepared to describe the proactive steps you have been taking to improve your skills — training, volunteer work or consulting projects.
The subject of why you’re leaving is a bit trickier in this case because you probably don’t have the luxury of keeping your answer 100% positive. If you left and didn’t leave for another opportunity, there was obviously an issue of some kind.
Maybe it was your issue or maybe it was the company’s issue. Either way, you have to be able to explain why it was a reasonable separation and why you are a fantastic and very attractive candidate.
Resist the temptation to trash talk your previous employer. Even if the company was totally dysfunctional, you should avoid sounding too negative.
What If You Were Laid Off?
If you were laid off for reasons unrelated to performance, just make that clear and be sure to emphasize your accomplishments on the job. Many amazing and brilliant people have survived a layoff (or even two or three).
Most interviewers won’t judge you negatively for being downsized — especially if you weren’t the only one affected. Just keep your explanation concise and skip any ugly details. Keep in mind that your interviewer will probably be on the lookout for red flags — that is, any information that makes you look unprofessional, unmotivated, or dishonest.
Sample Answer 4:Unfortunately, the company’s biggest client went business at the beginning of the year and that had a major effect on revenues.
As a result, they had to eliminate some positions and I was among the five most recently hired in our department. I am proud of the work that I did there, I got stellar performance reviews, and my former manager is one of my strongest references.
Why We It: This answer makes it clear that the candidate lost his job for reasons beyond his control. He explains that it was a matter of seniority and not performance.
He also makes it clear that he can provide a glowing reference from the job to back up his claim. Reasons are provided, but the answer is still concise.
Too much detail will just start to sound defensive or confusing.
What If You Were Fired?
If you were fired for performance reasons, you should mention any extenuating circumstances, but avoid putting all of the blame on others. For example, if the job requirements or expectations changed after you were hired, make that clear. Sometimes, expectations change as a result of new management, budget cuts, or a shift in strategy.
If you were fired for any reason, you should make a point of highlighting lessons learned from the experience. The goal here is to assure the interviewer that it was an isolated incident and that you would not be a risky hire. (For more read: How to Explain Being Fired)
Sample Answer 5:
After some management changes, it became clear that the new department director had new expectations for the role that didn’t really mesh with my strengths. Ultimately, she decided to bring in someone from her previous organization who had more sales experience.
The experience taught me that my real talent is in customer service and I know I would be a major asset in a role this one, which focuses on improving the customer experience. Would you me to tell you more about my experience in that area?
Why We It: The answer is concise and the language is neutral. The situation is described without negativity or defensiveness. The candidate then cites a lesson learned and redirects attention to her strengths.
Preparation Is Key
If you were laid off or fired, it’s natural to feel awkward talking about these issues in a job interview. That’s why it’s critical to prepare and practice in advance.Otherwise, you can easily come across as defensive and shifty even if you have nothing to hide or be embarrassed about.
Practice, practice, and practice some more (use Big Interview to practice and to record yourself and evaluate your style).
Inside Big Interview, our complete training system for job interviews, we give you video lessons, sample answers, and an interactive practice tool for all of these different versions of “Why did you leave your last job?” Watch this brief video to learn a little more about Big Interview, and click here to take a quick look at the program.
3) Why Did You Leave Position X?
Remember that your interviewer is going to be interested in ALL of the career transitions on your resume. Again, your reasons for leaving a job can say a lot about you and your fit for the new position.
As you walk your interviewer through your resume, be prepared to address your reason for leaving each position. Follow the advice above in terms of how to answer.
If you left a job voluntarily, follow the guidance provided in explaining why you want to leave a current position. You should emphasize the positive reasons that prompted you to leave — seeking new challenges, pursuing new experiences, pursuing a dream job, taking on new responsibilities.
If you were laid off or fired from a previous job, follow the advice in the section above. If you have performed well in positions since the layoff or termination, the details won’t be as important to the interviewer. In fact, the more evidence of accomplishments and positive performance, the easier it is to counter any concerns about a termination.
For positions that you held in the distant past, you can provide fewer details. The interviewer will always be most interested in your most recent work history.
However, you should always be prepared to talk about any position listed on your resume — especially those that were short tenures (less than a year), came before gaps in your resume (indicating that you left suddenly or were let go), or both.
For more advice on handling these scenarios:
- Job Hopping DOsand DON’Ts
- How to Explain Gaps on Your Resume
Business Vocabulary: Leaving a Job (Уход с работы)
Каждый человек хотя бы раз в жизни менял работу. Это происходило по разным причинам, начиная от низкой зарплаты до неприятного цвета обоев в офисе.
Тема ухода и смены места работы поднимается на каждом собеседовании, поэтому вам необходимо владеть лексикой для подобного обсуждения.
Все возможные причины ухода с работы мы разбили на четыре типичные ситуации, в каждой из которых используется особая лексика, обозначающая различные пути ухода с места работы.
Вас не устраивают условия, вам мало платят, вы недовольны рабочим графиком или ваш начальник – монстр. Пора искать другую работу. Но для этого вам сперва придется уволиться со старой. Для этого в английском существуют глаголы resign и quit и различные выражения с ними:
- resign [rɪ'zaɪn] – уходить в отставку, подавать в отставку, оставлять пост, уволиться
- quit [kwɪt] – уволиться с работы
- to resign one's office/ post/ position – отказаться от своей должности, уйти в отставку
- to send/ hand/ give in one's resignation – подать прошение об отставке; подать заявление об уходе
Эти глаголы всегда используются в активном залоге, потому что решение принимаете вы сами:
I resigned./ I quitted. – Я уволился. Have you heard that the CEO resigned his position? – Слыхали, что генеральный директор ушел с поста? We were shocked when the Minister of Finance resigned his office. – Мы были шокированы, узнав, что министр финансов подал в отставку.
I am determined to find another job. I have already handed in my resignation. – Я полон решимости найти новую работу. Я уже подал заявление об уходе.
Вы достигли пенсионного возраста (retirement age) и пора вам уходить на заслуженный отдых, то есть на пенсию (retirement [rɪ'taɪəmənt]). Воспользуемся глаголом retire [rɪ'taɪə] – уходить в отставку, на пенсию, отправлять в отставку, на пенсию.
Данный глагол можно встретить и в активном, и в пассивном залоге, потому что случается, что работников отправляют на пенсию, хотя они еще могут работать.
He retired when he was 60. – Он ушел на пенсию, когда ему было 60.
He was retired when he was 60. – Его отправили на пенсию, когда ему было 60.
Рассмотрим фразы с глаголом retire:
- to retire early – рано выходить на пенсию
- to retire on medical grounds – уходить на пенсию по состоянию здоровья
- to retire from business – отойти от дел
- to retire as (headmaster) – уйти в отставку с поста (директора школы)
Ваша компания переживает трудные времена либо проводит реорганизацию, либо меняется собственник. В таких ситуациях обычно проводится сокращение штата – redundancy [rɪ'dʌndən(t)sɪ]:
- be redundant [rɪ'dʌndənt] – быть уволенным по сокращению штатов, по причинам, не зависящим от работника
- to make redundant – cокращать сотрудников
- to be made redundant – попасть под сокращение
Можно использовать и в пассивном, и в активном залоге:
The new owner made half of staff redundant. – Новый владелец сократил половину персонала.
After the end of the project we will have to make 5 junior developers redundant. – После окончания проекта нам придется сократить пятерых младших разработчиков.
She was made redundant last year. – Ее сократили в прошлом году.
The factory was closed down so hundreds of people were made redundant. – Фабрику закрыли, поэтому сотни людей попали под сокращение.Кроме того, в английском имеется фразовый глагол lay off, обозначающий «увольнять, сокращать». Как правило, lay off подразумевает «временное» увольнение, то есть после определенного периода работник может вернуться на работу.
Заботливые западные работодатели иногда обеспечивают сокращенным работникам помощь в поиске новой работы или переквалификации, привлекая агентства по трудоустройству. В английском это называется термином outplacement.
Вы грубо нарушаете трудовую дисциплину, не являетесь на работу, опаздываете на деловые встречи, сорвали подписание важного контракта. Начальство больше не может терпеть такого сотрудника. Вам светит не что иное, как увольнение.
Но только вышеупомянутые слова resign и quit в данной ситуации не понадобятся. Если вас выгоняют с работы, то для описания ситуации используются совершенно другие глаголы и выражения.
Каждый из них может использоваться и в активном, и в пассивном залоге.
Если важно, кто именно увольняет, то используем активный, но обычно мы этого не уточняем, поэтому эти глаголы довольно часто употребляются в пассивном залоге. Рассмотрим эти комбинации:
|Увольнять с работы||Быть уволенным с работы|
|to dismiss [dɪs'mɪs]||to be dismissed|
|to terminate ['tɜːmɪneɪt]||to be terminated|
|to discharge [dɪs'ʧɑːʤ]||to be discharged|
|to fire ['faɪə]||to be fired|
|to sack [sæk]to give a sack||to be sackedto get the sackto be given a sack|
They dismissed him for incompetence./ He was dismissed for incompetence. – Его уволили за некомпетентность. They terminated him for being rude to the customers./ He was terminated for being rude to the customers. – Его уволили за то, что он грубил покупателям. They discharged him because he played truant from work./ He was discharged for playing truant from work. – Его уволили, потому что он прогуливал работу. I will fire you if you are late again./ You will be fired if you are late again. – Вы будете уволены, если еще раз опоздаете.
They gave her a sack for laziness./ She was given a sack. – Ее уволили за лень.
Слова fire и sack непривычно видеть в значении “увольнять”. Мы с вами знаем, что первоначально fire – огонь, sack – мешок, поэтому данные выражения смело можно назвать идиомами. Наверняка, в фильмах вы не раз слышали фразу “You are fired!”, произнесенную с определенной интонацией и сопровождающуюся характерным жестом. Как же слова fire и sack приобрели свои новые значения?
Дело в том, что в старину в Англии все работники имели свои инструменты, которые хранили в специальном мешке (sack). При этом они часто путешествовали с места на место со своими инструментами, меняя места работы.
При устройстве на новую работу работники сдавали свои мешки на хранение работодателю.
Когда заканчивался срок службы, работа была выполнена, или работодатель увольнял работника, он возвращал мешки работникам (give the sack), и они отправлялись дальше в поисках работы.
Если же работник был уличен в краже, то работодатель на глазах других наемников сжигал его мешок вместе с инструментами, чтобы в дальнейшем вор не мог найти другую работу. Это служило уроком и профилактикой воровства. Такая форма наказания называлась firing the tools или being fired, соответственно: “He is fired” – “Он уволен”.
Оба выражения прижились в английском языке, их используют довольно часто, однако они имеют оттенок неформальности, поэтому употребляются в разговорной речи.
Продолжайте совершенствовать свой английский вместе с нами! Наши сообщества в и Instagram. Присоединяйтесь!
Laid off? These are the legal rights that can protect you
Dawn Papandrea, Monster contributor
Understand what your legal rights are when you've been laid off.
In most cases when people are laid off, they are so shocked or emotional about the experience that they aren’t sure what to do, what their rights are, or if they might even have a legal basis to sue. As a result, they end up walking away, no questions asked—sometimes with severance pay, sometimes with nothing at all.
If you’ve been laid off, step one is to breathe. You have every right to feel stunned.
“Most employees start jobs and no one ever thinks about what’s going to happen in the event of termination,” says Christopher Davis, managing partner of Law Office of Christopher Q. Davis, based in New York.
So would you know what to do if your boss called you in to have the layoff talk tomorrow? Here’s what employment law experts say you should know.
What laws protect you during a layoff?
The default in virtually all employment situations is “at will” employment, says Marc Siegel, founder and managing partner of Chicago-based Siegel & Dolan, mediator, and arbitrator. “That means an employer can terminate you for any reason, or no reason at all, as long as it’s not discriminatory.”
If you're in a protected class your age, sex, national origin, religion, or race, or if you have a disability, and you can prove that you were laid off because of it, then you might have a case.
Without getting too deep into legal jargon, here’s a quick look at some of the federal discrimination laws that cover workers.
If you’re over 40: The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 protects workers 40 and older. In addition, if you’re in that age category and you’re part of a group layoff, you’re also protected by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act. This gives you 21 days to consider any severance offer, and another seven days to revoke your agreement.
If you’re part of a minority group: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits companies from making employment decisions race/color, religion, sex, pregnancy or national origin.
If you have a disability: The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits employment discrimination against those with disabilities.Just suspecting your affiliation with one of these groups prompted your layoff isn’t enough to bring a claim, says Davis. “You have to prove ‘disparate impact discrimination,’ which involves some quick math. Has the company put a larger number of members of a protected category into the group of people being terminated?” says Davis.
Other potentially illegal reasons for a layoff include:
If the employer violates public policy: For example, if an employee files a workman's compensation claim or reports an illegal or unethical behavior, and then a couple of months later is terminated, that worker might be able to prove that the layoff was done in retaliation, says Siegel.
Read up on federal whistleblower laws, as well as those in your state, if you find yourself in this situation, says Davis.
If you have to take care of a family member who is ill: The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees to take up to 12 work weeks unpaid (26 if the care is for a servicemember), job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage.
If your employer is large: The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act sets rules for notifying workers about large layoffs and plant closures.
You must receive a written notice 60 days before the date of a mass layoff. If not, you may be able to seek damages for back pay and benefits for up to 60 days.
In some states New York, employers have to give 90 days notice.
If you think you were laid off because of any of the above reasons, consult with a local attorney to help you decide if legal action is warranted. You may also contact the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) to file a complaint.
What can you expect in severance?
Questions of legality aside, you might be wondering if you’re entitled to severance, and if it’s worth negotiating for a better package. First off, know that an employer is not obligated to give severance at all. “Some companies offer severance as a matter of company policy,” says Davis, “but it is discretionary.”
In larger companies, severance plans may be a set, standard formula, says Siegel. “Generally, you’ll see offers of one to four weeks of pay per year of service, and it’s capped at a certain number of weeks,” he adds.
The other aspect of the severance besides what you’ll be paid is what rights you’re giving up.
“If you’re getting a severance, it could be that the company is trying to discourage you from consulting with a lawyer,” says Davis. Once you sign the agreement, you give up your right to sue.
“That’s valuable to a company because they don’t want to have to pay lawyers or pay settlements or judgments.”
Also, be very careful about covenants that follow you, says Siegel. “If there are any post-employment restrictions about soliciting customers or working for competitors, sometimes the amounts they’re paying you might not be worth it,” he says.
Similar to a salary negotiation, you don’t necessarily have to take the first offer when you’re handed a severance. “There could be room to negotiate your severance. Every agreement isn’t just a goodwill gesture,” says Davis. “Companies do pay out more if there are legitimate legal claims, so always run it by a lawyer.”
In fact, coming away with a better severance is often a person’s best recourse rather than suing, since doing the latter can take years and require a lot of legal fees.
Under what circumstances should you sue?
If you think you have a good case, you could go ahead and sue your employer, but bear in mind that it’s an arduous process, says Siegel. Ask yourself these questions:
What type of claim do I have, and is it worth fighting?
Of all the potential claims, Siegel finds that Family Medical Leave cases tend to be easiest to win, assuming you have good evidence. “Everyone knows someone who’s been sick, so juries are more sympathetic,” he says. In addition, the standard of proof in such cases is more lenient than in other cases.
Take age discrimination cases, for instance. Those require the higher “but for” standard of proof, says Siegel. In other words, you have to prove that “but for” your age, you would not have been terminated. Also, in age cases, even if you do win, don’t expect large payouts. The ADEA doesn’t allow for emotional distress damages or punitive damages, says Siegel.
With racial and sexual discrimination cases, the burden of proof is slightly less stringent—you just have to show race/sex was one factor in the discharge, says Siegel. The challenge is trying to get a unanimous jury to agree. If you can, though, you may win compensatory and punitive damages (which are allowed), says Siegel, especially in states California where damages are uncapped.
How big of a layoff is it?
“The more people that are being let go, the harder it’s going to be hard to show you were being targeted unless you have some pretty good evidence,” says Siegel.
Unfortunately, he adds, sometimes companies use a mass layoff to let a ‘red flag’ person go—whether it’s a 65-year-old, a member of a minority group who is ly to claim discrimination, or a person who filed a sexual harassment complaint.
“When they are let go with everyone else, it’s much harder to prove discrimination,” says Siegel.
Where do you live?
Depending on your state’s laws, you might have an easier time of winning a case. Siegel says generally speaking, states such as Illinois, New York, and California have stronger employee protections. Read up on your state’s labor laws via the Department of Labor’s website.
Ultimately, consulting with an attorney can help you determine whether your layoff appears to be legal or illegal, but only you can determine whether the cost of going after your former employer is worth the time and effort.
Now that you have a better understanding of your rights, should the day come when you’re laid off, you won’t be so caught off guard and will be in a better position to negotiate. If you think you might have a legal claim, be sure to work with an employment lawyer to help you walk away with a better severance or, if warranted, pursue a lawsuit.
Take this important next step
Being laid off can send you into a tailspin, no matter how many years you’ve been in the workforce. You feel stressed, angry, and, let’s face it, kinda hopeless. That’s where we come in. Could you use some help jump-starting a job search? Join Monster today.
As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent to you when positions become available.
Those are just two quick and easy ways Monster can take some of the burden off your shoulders. It’s what we’re here for!This article is not intended as a substitute for professional legal advice. Always seek the advice of an attorney regarding any legal questions you may have.
How To Lay Off Employees With Dignity? 8 Step Laying Off Process
Un dismissal and other forms of involuntary terminations, layoffs are conducted for reasons other than employee performance or conduct. Layoffs usually happen due to changes in the organization, economic recessions, and other related market volatile conditions.
Sometimes, organizations may wish to restructure in which case they need to choose some of the employees for layoff. If this process lacks the necessary etiquettes either on the part of the employee or the employer, the consequences are bitter as well as painful.
Your goal as an organization, therefore, is to make the separation as amicable as possible, allowing you to lay off employees with their dignity intact even as they walk out the door.
It’s quite simple – a mishandled termination of employment creates anger and resentment. That leads to lawyers, and as a manager, you want to avoid those waters wherever possible. That means you must keep the discussion away from the employee’s failings- this isn’t a coaching session, it’s a termination.
Here are some steps that will help you achieve what you want while letting the employee move on with his or her life.
Step 1: Determine the extent of the problem and figure out the departments that will be affected
As a manager, you need to be able to identify your reasons for a layoff and be able to establish how the process will go down.
During a lay off you should evaluate how much the process will cost the organization and what alternatives can be taken to cut costs and save employees.
If there aren’t any, try to determine the departments that might be affected by the layoff and also prepare for it.
Step 2: Freeze hiring
Hiring and laying off do not go hand in hand as one of the primary reasons for laying off employees is to cut costs. Therefore, when you prepare for a layoff, you should stop making new hires as this will only bring additional expenses that they organization may not be able to handle at the moment.
However, in the case where you are laying off non-performing employees, hiring can be considered to fill in front line positions that are left vacant. If this happens, you can consider the laid off employees-at least those that you think can perform well in the said positions.
Step 3: Prepare tentative lists of employees to be laid off.
After carefully analysing the situation and determining the departments that might be affected by the layoff, the next step is actually to figure out which employees will be believing. This process is known as the performance evaluation where the manager evaluates the profane levels of all ear marked employees.
The evaluation will help you establish the best and least performing employees thus making it easier to choose those that are more valuable to the business at the moment and those to lay off. Sometimes, you can also begin by laying off employees with the least service in the organization-those hired recently.
Step 4: Notify all employees of planned layoffs in advance.
Finding out about a possible lay off via rumours or outside information isn’t always the best thing that can happen to your employees. It tends to kill their morale, trust and the future of the organization as well. It is your responsibility as the manager to tell your employees in advance about a lay off before anyone else does.
The best way to deliver news about a lay off is a one on one meeting with your staff. Email notifications, memos, and other indirect communications are not the best way to communicate such a drastic measure.
A lay off is a sensitive issue at least it is for those affected, it should, therefore, be delivered with respect, compassion, and concern. You never know, perhaps you discussing the layoff and the reason behind it can bring up discussions and ideas that might help salvage the current situation.
Better cost saving approaches might arise during the discussion that may make you realize that after all, you don’t need to lay off employees.
Step 5: Prepare a final list of employees to be laid off
If a lay off is inevitable even after discussing the situation with staff, then it’s time you started preparing a final lay off list. You could choose to retain top performers and those in senior but critical management positions.
Preparing this list can be challenging that is why organizations are often advised to have a set termination process and policies that can be used to conduct such operations as layoffs efficiently. As you do this, be sure not to evaluate employees emotionally or be discriminatory in choosing who is going and who is staying.
Step 6: Notify affected employees
The fact that your employees already know that there is a possibility of a lay off makes them psychologically prepared for any outcome. This makes it easy for you to break the sad news to the affected employees.
You can choose to do this in private or in a group meeting with everyone involved in the termination process.
Step 7; do the deed, terminate
One thing that you shouldn’t do is to terminate employees in public and more so in a casual manner. You need to call all that are affected one by one and finalize the termination procedure behind closed doors.
Let the employees hand in any organizational property i.e. keys, files, badge, and uniforms. Take this opportunity to explain and give them their severance pay and also offer any post termination processes counselling etc. to help them cope with the situation.Lay off employees is a universally thankless task.
Step 8: Rally the remaining employees
The closure is necessary for the retained employees after a lay off. You need to call them into a meeting and explain to them that you had to do what you had to do. This gives the employees a chance to express their concerns publicly and hear directly from you what occurred. This not only minimizes concerns relating to employees’ job security but also diminishes the rumour mill.
Periods of layoff are never easy. How the organization manages the messages about the process will determine how employees and the public response to the organization in the future. If you lay off employees correctly, you and everyone concerned can each move forward with minimal disruption.