As businesses prepare for a coming recession, people’s jobs are inevitably on the chopping block. Tech companies like Meta, Amazon, Twitter, and Netflix are among the most high-profile organizations laying off workers in a bid to cut costs, but across industries, layoffs are on the rise in the US, with a 417 percent rise in the number of cut jobs in November compared to last year.
Workers affected by layoffs are suddenly faced with many drastic changes all at once: the loss of livelihood, routine, and benefits (if the job offered them). They’re left to navigate separation agreements, severance packages, and unemployment benefits with little guidance. All this on top of the already arduous job search process.
Still, laid-off employees often have more power beyond what the company initially spells out upon eliminating your position. While Vox can’t offer financial or legal advice, there are general guidelines to help workers in transition. From negotiating severance packages to dealing with unemployment, here are some tips to help guide you through the days and weeks after a layoff.
What to do the week before layoffs are announced
Usually workers will have some warning about impending layoffs, either from official company communications or from office rumors, says Alison Green, creator of the work advice column Ask a Manager. Getting “laid off” means you lost your job due to no fault of your own — the company is cutting costs, restructuring, or shutting down completely. Full-time, part-time, and contract workers can all be subject to layoffs.
Unfortunately, part-time workers might not have the benefit of severance packages or any other “safety net,” says employment lawyer Christopher Davis, managing partner and owner of the law firm Working Solutions NYC. “If there’s a layoff or some sort of shift in the economy, they’re really not protected.”
Getting laid off is different from being fired, where the company is letting you go based on poor performance or violating company policy. Quitting is where you voluntarily leave the job. Federal law requires employers with 100 or more employees to give 60 days’ notice of a layoff affecting 50 or more full-time employees at a single site of employment. Part-time employees are also entitled to receive notice of a mass layoff or plant closing.
Each state may have its own guidelines regarding notice, and layoffs more broadly, says Davis. If your employer does not give proper notice under these laws, you may have legal recourse, Davis says, so you and your fellow laid-off co-workers can consult with an employment lawyer. You and your colleagues can ask for attorney recommendations from family and friends or search for local legal aid organizations that have taken on employment cases.
Davis also recommends doing some online searches and research of your own and making cold calls. Use any possible advance notice to your benefit, Green says. Read over your employee handbook and determine what items or files in your desk, workplace, or computer you want to take with you. You might want to download your email contacts, secure copies of your performance reviews, or make sure you have accounted for all of your pay stubs.
Double-check with workplace rules when copying any examples of your work; the company almost certainly owns that material. Green also recommends having a copy of the employee handbook accessible so you can reference policies and procedures during the separation process if necessary.
If you are enrolled in your company’s health insurance plan, make any necessary doctor appointments and refill prescriptions, Green says. “Try to get extra refills if you can do it,” she adds.
What to do the day you are laid off
Receiving news that your position has been eliminated can be shocking and upsetting. You may have gotten notice in a group call, in a one-on-one meeting, or over email. Before taking action, pause and review all of the information you have about the separation as outlined in those meetings, says Lauren McGoodwin, founder and CEO of the online job resource website Career Contessa.
Companies aren’t required to offer severance, but many do, and severance details may be a part of these documents. Each individual employer can decide whether to offer severance to part-time employees. “Take a moment to decompress,” she says. “Don’t sign anything right away. Don’t react to it.”
Now would be a good time to speak to your union representatives, if you’re a member of a union, before signing any agreements. “Often, they will have specific supports in place that you can access,” Green says. Read over your collective bargaining agreement’s layoff clause, which should outline the process for deciding which positions are eliminated and whether you could potentially be rehired.
Davis says sometimes employment lawyers will offer free consults to talk through any potential legal issues or to look over your severance agreement, but be sure to clarify any fees before taking a meeting. “There’s a lot of people that have legal claims and they just don’t know it,” Davis says, “especially among those who are disenfranchised and don’t have access to the systems in power.”
If the company has sent over a separation agreement document — which lays out the conditions of the layoff — pay attention to the deadline you have to accept. Very rarely will your employer require you to sign on the spot or object to you showing the document to a lawyer, Green says, and if they do, those are major red flags…Continue reading
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