In the USA, the majority of private-sector workers are hired at-will, meaning that, barring unlawful discrimination, their employers can end their employment whenever they want, for any reason, with or without cause. Because few companies give warnings or gave an indication of termination, recently dismissed employees are sometimes taken by surprise quickly and abruptly.
If you suddenly lost your work, you might be unsure of your legal rights. Severance compensation and safeguards are sometimes offered by employers, although they are not required to. Experts advise saving up 3 to 6 months’ worth of costs as a backup plan in case of job loss. Strong protection is made possible by unions, but not all workers may join one.
Your Rights upon Employment Termination
Even if you are secure in keeping your employment, always be ready to change jobs and periodically update your CV because layoffs sometimes occur without surprise. Keep your network informed by updating your LinkedIn profile. If you lose your job, have a few prospective references close at hand to prevent starting again. Though fired employees retain some entitlements, including a last salary, severance money, continuous health care coverage, extended benefits, and unemployment benefit, be ready for any scenario to ensure a seamless and abrupt change in employment. Find out what your options are if you lose your work.
Sources of Employee Rights
Contract Rights: If employment is terminated, employees who have individual employment contracts with their employers or who are covered by a union or union representation agreement are protected by the terms of their contracts.
Company Policy: A severance plan that offers redundancy payment for employment termination may be in effect when layoffs are planned. Federal law does not, however, mandate that companies provide severance.
Statutory Rights: Federal and state laws grant some rights, including those related to unemployment insurance, anti-discrimination legislation, prior closure notice for facilities and large layoffs, as well as prohibitions against retaliation.
Getting Information on Rights: Consult the human resources department of the business if you have any questions regarding your rights. To make the process of quitting your job easier, issues concerning your eligibility for corporate benefits are addressed even while your employment is being terminated.
Employees are dismissed improperly or in violation of contracts when this occurs. If you were fired for one of the following reasons, you may argue wrongful dismissal:
- Breach of contract
- Refusal to commit illegal acts
- Company policy violation
Assistance Available for Unlawful Terminations
The U.S. Department of Labor can provide assistance if you have been subjected to discrimination or unfair treatment in accordance with corporate policy or the law, including information on the laws that govern employment and guidance on how to file claims. Depending on state legislation and specific circumstances, the state labor department may also be able to help. Although first consultations are free, local bar organizations offer reference services or a hotline to contact to find an employment lawyer. Although the federal and state governments offer unemployment benefits to those dismissed for reasons other than their own, not all employees are eligible for these benefits. For a variety of eligibility information, check state labor websites.
401(k) Benefits if you are fired
If leaving your current company, for a new job or if you were fired, four options are available:
- Retain current funds in your old employer’s plan
- Move funds to your new employer’s plan when possible
- Move savings to a self-directed retirement account (rollover IRA)
- Cash out
The first two options are preferred as the IRS penalizes you for accessing funds prior to age of 59.5.