Personal Development
I Got Laid Off Without Warning: Everything You Should Know

I Got Laid Off Without Warning: Everything You Should Know

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How to Prepare for a Layoff Without Warning

A layoff and a firing can be two drastically different events. A layoff typically occurs when a company is faced with financial adversity or other conditions outside their control. In contrast, being fired is usually due to a person's performance. If you find yourself in the unfortunate scenario of being laid off without warning, here are some steps you can take to prepare.

Understand Your Layoff Meeting

You may be subject to a meeting with leadership, your manager, or HR to discuss the circumstances of your layoff. During this meeting, you may be offered a severance package as an incentive to leave the company. However, keep in mind that not all employers are legally required to offer severance pay, unless it's specified in a contract, union agreement, or company policy. The compensation of severance pay is typically based on the seniority of the employee. For instance, some employers will offer one week of pay for every year of service, while others may offer two weeks of pay for each year.

Examine the Agreement Carefully

You should always take your time when examining the severance agreement. If you are uncertain of any details, you should consider consulting a lawyer or former colleagues. It is common for the company to ask you to sign a release which waives your right to sue and relieves the company of any legal liability. Before signing any agreement, be sure to read the contents thoroughly and understand the implications.

Invest in Yourself

The most effective way to prepare in advance for a layoff is to continuously develop your skills and knowledge. A great way to do this is to establish a learning system in your daily routine and focus on developing knowledge and experience in areas that need improvement. Additionally, networking with those in your industry is a great way to build and maintain a successful career. Make sure to keep an up-to-date resume on hand in case of an emergency job search.

The WARN Act

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers to give employees at least 60 days notice prior to a layoff in certain situations. This includes if a factory is closing, if 33% of full-time active employees (with a minimum of 50 full-time employees) are laid off, or if at least 500 full-time employees are laid off. If the employer fails to give the required notice, the employee is entitled to receive back pay and benefits for 60 days. It is important to note that the WARN Act still applies if the employer declares bankruptcy.

Protect Yourself Against Discrimination

Employers are prohibited from dismissing employees for an illegal reason. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) helps protect workers from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, and more. Laws such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) also offer various forms of protection for pregnant women, those aged 40 or over, and those with disabilities, respectively.

Employer Considerations for Layoffs

When layoffs are taking place, employers must be cognizant of the potential for violating the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) protected groups. Additionally, employers should be familiar with relevant state labor laws as they may in some cases differ from federal statutes.

Should I Sue My Employer?

Employees that believe that they have been unfairly let go due to discriminatory practices or without justifiable notice may have grounds to take legal action. Before initiating a legal process, there are a few questions to consider: is the stress worth it, does the case fall under the WARN Act, and was the employee discriminated against in any way? It is also beneficial to research the layoffs of other employees in similar situations.

When considering a lawsuit, it is good to be aware of the time and emotional energy it will require to bring the case forward, as well as the potential costs associated with it.

Fight For Your Rights to Fair Treatment

The shock of being abruptly laid off can make it hard to think of how to fight for one's rights to receive fair treatment. Reaching out to a professional to understand the labor laws in the employee's state is key. Additionally, consulting with an employment attorney to talk through any legal action can be beneficial.

Understanding the Rights You Deserve in the Workplace

It is important to understand the rights an employee is entitled to and review any and all paperwork prior to leaving, including a severance deal or potential extra benefits. Doing so ensures that the employee is getting the deal they deserve.

In addition to researching employment rights, self-reflection can be a powerful tool for employees to gain insight into their own attitudes, preferences, and behaviors, which shape their individual work experiences. Understanding how their thought process contributes to their work can help an individual make more informed decisions and get closer to their goals. From a company perspective, this self-reflection can lead to a higher level of productivity, engagement, and work quality.

At the end of the day, it is important to recognize the rights you deserve in the workplace and understand the potential for personal growth and development. By familiarizing yourself with labor laws, consulting an employment attorney, and engaging in self-reflection, you can put your best foot forward no matter what you choose to do next.

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