I’ve Been Fired! Now What?

By Kate Lorenz

According to Business Week, the average employee has a one-in-three chance of getting fired. Here’s what you’ll need to know in the event that the ax falls on you!

Q. Is it better to pre-empt a firing by resigning instead?

A: In most cases, no. Out of pride, many people fall into this trap and wind up waiving claim to severance pay, benefits, earned bonuses and commissions, and unemployment compensation. With so many victims of downsizings and reorganizations, being “let go” doesn’t carry the stigma it once did-in fact, most prospective employers won’t even bat an eye!

Q. Should I try to negotiate a better severance package?

A: By all means yes! According to the National Employee Rights Institute (NERI), employees have more bargaining power than they realize. Don’t be pressured into signing anything on the spot.  Tell your employer you need to review the proposed agreement with your legal and financial advisers. Then, check the company policy manual to find out what is standard practice for employees in your situation. If you can, talk to others whom the company has terminated.

pic2You can argue your case on merits such as length of service, specific accomplishments and amount of time required to find comparable employment in today’s labor market.

Be sure to document your achievements, and if your family has special needs (due to illness or disability) you may want to let your company know the hardships this termination may cause. Remember, money is not the only thing at stake. Consider how long you will continue to be covered under company health and life insurance and the status of any earned-or close to being earned-bonuses, commissions, vacation time and vesting in 401(k), pension and profit sharing accounts.

You also may want outplacement services or an agreed-upon letter of reference. Also think about getting your severance payment as salary continuation rather than a lump sum agreement. Salary continuation often allows for a continuation of disability benefits and also lets you answer “yes” when asked if you’re still employed.

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