Being fired? Know your rights

The sudden and unceremonious way in which thousands of Twitter employees were fired last week was a spectacle.

But it was also a helpful reminder that while employers can fire many workers at will (and with zero grace), workers are not disenfranchised when fired en masse.

Here’s a quick rundown of what employees need to know.

For a factory closing or a mass layoff, You should receive at least 60 days’ notice under the Workforce Adjustment Renewal Notification (WARN) Act. Some states may require more notice – New York, for example, requires 90 days. And the states it can also impose stricter standards than federal law, such as requiring employers with fewer employees to comply with the WARN Act.

If an employer is found to have violated the WARN Act, in addition to paying penalties to the state, it must pay 60 days (or more, depending on the state’s requirement) of back wages and benefits to those affected. deactivated, depending on how many days of notice the company has actually given.

“Notice” in this case means notifying the community at large, but also each person who will be laid off, said labor attorney Michael DuPont, who is a managing shareholder at the Minnesota law firm Wagner, Falconer & Judd and also provides legal services. LegalShield.

If a company suddenly fires you, it can be found to have violated the WARN Act if the effective date of the firing is at least 60 days after the day you were notified that you were fired, the labor attorney said. Alex Granovsky, co-founder of the New York law firm Granovsky & Sundaresh.

Technically, you will remain on the company’s payroll and continue to receive salary and benefits in between, and then the compensation you are awarded will be included.

Fun fact: There is no law – federal or state – that requires employers to offer you severance pay when you’re fired unless you have a union or individual employment contract that includes a provision to do so.

That said, many employers offer severance to protect you from legal claims you may make as a result of employment or termination.

A second reason many offer severance pay: “Good will and fairness to the workers and the community as a whole. Provide additional compensation in recognition of the hard time the workers and the community would face [experience]” said DuPont.

An employer wants you to give up some rights in exchange for money.

Put bluntly, “the company covers itself in every way that a former employee can get hurt [it]” said Granovsky.

You generally waive your right to file a claim against the company, such as discrimination, hostile work environment, wage violations or any other alleged wrongdoing.

You’ll also typically have to agree to several clauses that prohibit you from harming the company, he said. Among others:

Confidentiality Clause: This clause prohibits you from sharing company business details or the terms of your opt-out agreement.

Non-Party Clause: This prevents you from saying the wrong place.

Cooperation Clause: you agree to help the company if you sue them in the future over a matter you know something about as a result of your tenure there.

Non-Cooperation Clause: This prohibits you from helping anyone else try to sue the company.

No Solicitation Clause: This usually means that you can’t take your soon-to-be former employer’s customers or employees with you if you need to start working elsewhere or start your own business.

Waiver of these types of rights does not, however, oblige the employer to pay what is already owed, such as pension or earned vacation or sick leave. “The consideration offered to waive the right to sue…must be something that is in addition to the employee’s existing rights,” the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated.

If you believe you have legitimate claims against the company, your employer would prefer not to sue he will likely be more open to negotiating the terms of your release instead.

“A company would rather pay $100 than pay $150 later,” DuPont said.

If you don’t have a strong case to justify filing a lawsuit that you can use as a bargaining chip, you can still try to get your employer to give you a reason for your severance package.

“It’s okay to ask. You should ask. There’s no harm in asking,” Granovsky said.

You can request more months of paid health benefits if you or a family member on your insurance plan is battling cancer, DuPont noted as an example. Or if you are If you’re a long-term employee in good standing or have a unique skill set that the employer wants to tap into in the future, you can make a compelling case that the company should offer you an additional salary.

Since the severance agreement is an important legal document that will affect your immediate future, it can be helpful to have an employment attorney experienced in severance cases review the company’s offer.

If hiring a lawyer directly is too expensive, you may want to consider a cheaper service like LegalShield, which charges about $30 a month to access an employment attorney in your state who can review your offer, make sure it complies with the law, and make calls on your behalf to your employer seeking changes to the agreement. if you are

If your case is complicated and involves more legal action, or if your severance agreement is more than 15 pages long, your costs will be higher, but you will get a discount on the attorney’s hourly fee for your case.

Or, if you have very simple questions, some employment lawyers can offer a free consultation over the phone.

Under federal law, if you are 40 or older, you must be given at least 45 days of collective leave (21 days if your layoff is not part of a mass layoff) to decide whether to sign your severance agreement.

In any case, if you accept the offer, you must also give him 7 days to change his mind.

That said, each state may have its own requirements above the federal minimum requirements, DuPont said. So check your state’s Department of Labor site to see what their exact requirements are.

Many employers may freeze severance payments if the company hires you for a new position.

If you find a job elsewhere or start freelancing for others, some employers may choose to reduce your compensation if your new source of income is less than what you were paying.

“They can say, ‘If you make less money, we’ll only pay the delta,'” Granovsky said.

In either case, your severance agreement should explicitly state your employer’s policy. So don’t sign until you are clear about those terms.

But if the settlement is silent on the matter, you may continue to receive your full compensation while earning income from another source. “So that’s a win for the worker,” DuPont said.