So, you’ve been working for a private company for a few years, or even many years, and you are starting to see signs of potentially being let go. You suddenly have a new supervisor or new management has been brought in, and it seems as though a shift in employment is inevitable. You received a lower- than- expected performance appraisal and or may have been placed on a “performance improvement plan” that doesn’t seem achievable. Or maybe you arrived at work only to find a new hire that suddenly you seem to be training to take over your position. The “push” can take many forms, but the ultimate action is the same, termination or separation from your employment.
Generally, private sector employees in the US without an employment contract are “at will” employees and can be terminated at any point for any reason as long as it is not based on discrimination. This includes if your boss “doesn’t like you.” It is not illegal for your boss not to like you, but it is illegal for your boss to like you less than other employees because they are not in the same protected class as you (race, gender, age, religion,national origin, sexual orientation, disability, pregnancy, etc.).
So, what, if anything can you do if the reasons you are being let go are not as a result of discrimination or anything illegal? Do you have any recourse? The answer is yes.
Typically, when you are terminated, and it is not performance-based termination, you will be given an “agreement” to sign upon your separation. This agreement is offered by your employer as a means to formalize the separation of your employment, and to prevent you from pursuing legal action against them for any reason. You should consider this agreement a “proposal” instead of a definitive agreement. Do not sign the agreement upon notification that you are being terminated. Rather, you should get a copy of the separation notification and proposed separation agreement and have an attorney review it immediately. The attorney can recommend suggested revisions to the agreement,and based on the amount of time you have been employed with the company or organization,the attorney may be able to seek severance, or additional severance and/or benefits than what the company is offering in their proposed agreement. Seeking legal advice regarding your proposed separation is the best way to insure you will receive the best compensation package as part of your separation.
Additionally, you do not need to wait until you have actually been presented with a separation notice to seek counsel or guidance from an attorney regarding separation from your company. If you are experiencing a difficult transition with new management and you have the feeling that you are going to be “let go,” you can take a pre-emptive approach to negotiating your separation from the company by having an attorney step into do the same.
Separating from your company when it is not anticipated can be a very emotional experience. It is a good idea to have an attorney assist you to make sure your interests in this difficult time are properly represented.
If you are facing possible separation from your job and don’t understand your separation agreement, Alan Lescht & Associates can help. Contact us at (202) 463-6036 or visit our site to schedule a consultation.