Skip to comments.I Just Got Fired.... Now What?
Posted on 10/19/2012 2:14:49 PM PDT by Volunteer
I was fired from my job today after 5 years. They have offered me a 5 month severance package, the catch is I have to sign some agreement that I can't understand.
They explained they would not pay me my monthly salary this month or my 207 hours of vacation unless I sign the agreement.
Can any one out there give me some advice as to what I should do? I am in Wisconsin and I know nothing about Employment Law here.
Any suggestions would be very helpful and very appreciated.
Well, I can tell you right off the bat that they cannot refuse to pay you for your vacation. That would be a violation of Federal law, and you would be able to sue them for treble damages, I believe.
As far as the severance package, that they can make contingent on signing the agreement, since they are under no obligation to give you a severance package at all. But I would recommend you find a labor attorney to review the agreement first - you may be signing away some rights that you don’t even know you have.
Repeating what so many others have said, please DON’T sign the agreement unless you understand it.
Years ago, I signed for an agreement to receive severance pay, which prevented me from getting unemployment benefits because I the agreement stipulated that I had quit rather than being fired. (I was in a different state...laws may be different in your state.) The company offered me the agreement because paying me severance was a lot cheaper than the increase to the company’s unemployment insurance would have been. Based on the HR person’s comments, it sounds like you would be agreeing that you quit if you sign this agreement. What are your chances of getting another decent-paying job before the 5 months of severance pay are spent? Will a bad reference from this employer (if you refuse the agreement) make it harder for you to find a new job? On the other hand, can you rely on this employer to give you a good reference if you sign this agreement?
Non-competition clauses can also be a real problem, especially if your job and skill set are specialized. They can make it all but impossible to get another job in your field.
Most severance agreements have clauses stipulating that you won’t sue over certain things. Those “hold harmless” provisions might be fair and reasonable. Or, they might be the employer trying to cover his behind because there’s something you might have grounds to sue for - age or disability discrimination?
Last, I don’t see how the employer can legally withhold your last month’s pay if you don’t sign. If you worked that month, you earned the pay. Accrued vacation time may be trickier to claim, depending on what kind of employment agreement you signed (if any).
I am not a fan of running to lawyers with every little thing (people sue too much over trivial things), but this sounds like a time when a lawyer can keep you from making a costly mistake. A few hours of a lawyer’s time to review the agreement, and maybe having him write a letter or help you negotiate better terms is a lot cheaper than losing out on unemployment benefits or finding yourself all but shut out of your field.
LOL! That was pretty interesting to read as a lawyer who just spent half an hour composing a post with no possibility of getting anything in return other than the satisfaction of trying to help someone in need.
As a matter of fact, they have to pay you for all monies owed (salary, accrued vacation, etc) at the time they fire you, unless you are fired for some infraction that requires immediate dismissal - then they have to pay you within 3 business days. If they don’t, you have legal recourse.
A man with a PHD can’t figure out what has happened?
Since I know the owner very well and truly do not trust the guy, I know I am going to have to get an attorney.
“Be careful with the attorney. He could end up with the money, you get a bad deal and nothing to show for it. Have you done a good thourough search for this on the net? Ill bet there are a lot of people who have faced this.”
I agree. I for one think getting lawyers involved is almost a guaranteed lose/lose, unless the employer did something illegal.
Volunteer, you are being fired for ‘performance’ but they offer 5 months salary?
Unless you worked there 30 years, that is quite generous. As an at-will employee, they could have made it 2 weeks. I know a gut who got just one month. Those packages are for those who get laid off.
You should really figure out “Can I get a new job within 6 months?” If you can ... YOU COME OUT AHEAD.
And now you say you dont trust the boss?!? Come on, this is a gift man, you just got out of working for a guy you dont trust and he’s paying you NOT to work for 5 months.
Millions have faced this. I faced it. (laid off, NOT for performance). Millions sleep on it and after a few days, checking it out, realize this is their best bet: Take the money and run to your next job.
I went right to the unemployment office for the info I needed.
I actually live in Green Bay, WI. My area is Behavior Analysis and I work with people who have Developmental Disabilities and Mental Illness.
Until today, I worked for a small company that provided residential services to these folks.
That is an assumption, we don’t know the background on this agreement.
It may or may not be boiler plate stuff.
Don’t be embarrassed. A LOT of us have been there. Well, okay, it was a little embarrassing at first, but it helped that our entire building was laid off.
I am now an official statistic, if that helps (probably not)....under employed. It was either everyone took an hours hit or someone would have to go.
Went from full time to not so full time. 3-4 hours a week makes a huge difference. We’re still hanging on by a thread.
Whatever you do, don’t sign the statement if it says you are resigning. That will disqualify you for unemployment—at least in Texas and Louisiana it would.
I'll be happy to take your case at only $25 per hour. While I'm not really an attorney, I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
So, here's my first hour of advice to you, file for unemployment..........
I'll send you my address via private FReepmail and you can send me the check. Thank you, it's been a pleasure handling your case.
If by chance your employer renegs on his statement and protests your claim for U.I., please feel free to contact me again and I will advise you on what to do next.........
I've been on both sides of this equation and in NYS, at least, one cannot be fired for 'performance' unless the employer has met at leasttwo standards...
1) A record of your poor performance and the employer's efforts to correct it or at the ;east warn you about it must preceed any dismissal.
2) Every other employee of the company with the same job must also be shown to meet the standard that you failed to or else be fired too.
Absent these two conditions NYS Dept. of Labor will represent the employee in a wrongful discharge suit (as long as the employee is not a 'manager').
If they have either sat you down to discuss the performance issue prior to this and/or notified you in writing that your performance is an issue then there is little (probably nothing) you can do except take the money and wave good-bye.
sign it & cash the check.
The agreement isn’t legally binding.
If you have some legal claim regarding the basis for your departure, a lawyer, competent in the field, will tell you whether you have a case.
I’ve been through a variety of business cycles over 40 years and have watched layed off, older workers prevail, in spite of signing such agreements.
Funny you mention that. I've been on the "firing line" for doing the same thing. Although the 2 witches involved did get her fired. This happened a few years ago and they are still trying to get me fired.
First off, are you a union member?
Sign it. It’s under duress and could be walked back as such.
Wrong. First off, employers don't "pay" unemployment to former employees. UE insurance is paid to the state, which we submit as a percentage of our total payroll for the quarter. For my business, in AR, I pay 4% of my total payroll in UE premiums to the state. The percentages are different for every employer, but that is a long and complicated discussion if I were to break it down. A five month severance off is generous. It is as long as any possible unemployment benefit that could be obtained from the state. UE will only payout a percentage of an individual's salary (60 to 80), the severance package is 100% of the salary. It's a better offer. Plus, they are agreeing to pay the 207 hours of vacation time, which NO employer needs to do when they let an employee go - contrary to what most people believe. Their offer is generous.
Move to a right to work state.
Forget Wisconsin em[loyment law...they have violated FEDERAL labor law. But five months severance instead of pay for 200 hours of vacation and last month’s wages??? I say you are about three months ahead of the game... BUT read the package carefully. Have a lawyer look at it (to protect you). They may be asking you to sign away some of your rights to things like unemploymen insurance pay etc).
I know folks dont like to go to lawyers but this would be a good time to do so
“Quit in lieu of termination” means you cannot collect unemployment. And they can say that in future reference checks. “He quit because he did poorly and didn’t want to be fired.”
Get an attorney, and do not rely on the advice of someone who works for the company. And make copies of all documentation when you take it for review. If they refuse to let you take it to be reviewed by someone with legal experience, do not sign and state you will not sign without your legal representative present.
If you do so, it will be denied. The employer will respond with a copy of what was offered in terms of severance. Then you are out of gas with UE AND with the severance package, which the employer can pull back after needing to waste time explaining that to Dept of Workforce Svcs / Dept of Labor. It's one or the other - you can't get both.
“...if you “quit” you are typically not eligible for unemployment compensation.”
If employees quit I don’t think that they are given severance packages. But maybe in Wisconsin...
b) In some states, you can collect severance and still collect unemployment (Illinois, for example). I'm not sure where your state of residence is or from which state you will collect any UE
All you need to know is that the guy was let go in an "at will" state and provided with a five month severance package for only five years of employment.
That's a jackpot for anyone who has ever lost their job after so little seniority...........
I know exactly what the "agreement" says, I have issued them and I ultimately received one...........
Employment attorneys know exactly what that agreement says and the only way one will give it any consideration will be cash up front, probably in the neighborhood of $250. There's no way will he ever be able to find an attorney to take up his claim for a fee based outcome because there is now way he can win.
At this point I would advise him to file a discrimination claim with the state of Wisconsin and let them investigate it for free.
In light of this “quit instead of termination” business, you need to understand the ramifications upon your ability to claim unemployment. If you have the funds to do so get an attorney to review this and explain what it means.
On the other hand, unless terms of your employment contain a severance agreement you could be jeopardizing this.
You are an at will employee, so they don’t need a reason to terminate. However, all EEOC regulations and requirements still apply, at will or not. If you can plausibly claim unfair treatment due to age, race, sex, etc. then you could make things difficult for them.
If they think they have legit grounds to let you go based on “performance” and are still going to give you a five-months-salary severance package, all other issues notwithstanding, I would generally say take it, as in a lot of other non-union situations they might have legally been obliged to give you only two-weeks notice/severance.
On the other hand, you need to check on any company HR policy regarding unused vacation time. There may be something in there that suggests you are entitled to pay in lieu of that time, regardless of the circumstances of your leaving. But, check THAT part out; I could just as well be wrong on this.
Excellent post. Saving it. May need it in the future. The 2 witches in the office are still trying to get me fired.
If he has 5 months of salary coming, he can afford 250 dollars.
I was shocked to learn, here in NY (don't know if it's still the case as it was many years ago) I could collect unemployment while collecting my severance.
I hope I have 5 months salary coming. I know only what they told me.
Not true. There are several types of severance packages, one for terminated employees and another for permanently laid off employees.
For the terminated employee, it is a lump sum payoff, not designated for any future pay periods. That allows the terminated employee to file for U.I. It is then up to the employer to protest the claim and prove that the termination was due to misconduct. In the case of this guy, that is unlikely.
The other type of severance, the permanently laid off, that usually provides for a specified monthly continuation of salary based on years of seniority and is a percentage of his weekly or monthly salary offset by any unemployment benefits he is entitled to......
Since this guy has not provided a copy of his severance agreement, it is useless to engage in a debate as to what he is or isn't entitled to based solely on his statement that he was fired.
And as I said before, based on Wisconsin's "at will" law, it's unlikely any attorney will even speak with him unless he's willing to fork over whatever consultation fee the attorney demands......
Seems to me that you should be able to do a lot as a freelancer for distressed Packers fans, and in about three weeks for hordes of despondent Dems.
The biggest questions are --
1) Does the severance preclude unemployment payments?
2) Is the severance one big check which then makes taxes much more than a regular paycheck?
3) What is your run rate compared to your paycheck, and how hard would it be to get another job?
I'll pray for you...we FReepers need to stick together.
In an "At Will" state, an employer can terminate you for no reason whatsoever.......
There is a difference between a "Right to Work" state and an "At Will" state.
The Right to Work state allows you the right to not have to join a union if you don't wish to.
An "At Will" state allows your employer to terminate you for no cause......
You should call the legal aid office in your area. There should be one.
If they can say you quit they are off the hook for everything.
-——When I asked why I was being fired, I was told “performance”. I am an at-will employee, so I assume that can mean anything. ——
If you are a “ at will “ employees.... You basically have no rights or recourse....
Take the money and look for another job....the fact they gave you severance probably means it wasn’t actually a true performance issue rather a way to get you to sign off on the termination agreement so to limit their legal liabilities
Thank you for the prayers. My wife and I could use them right now!
Most states have a specific time limit by which they must pay you in full, usually 48 hours after being terminated, regardless of reason.
Not true at all.
EVERYONE needs to read this:
What do you know that the company doesn’t want to get out there. My daughter was fired from a job she had for 11 years. She hated it, but she had a lot invested in it. They made her sign one of those before giving her her severance.
The guy was money laundering. My daughter and the other emplyees didn’t understand what they were doing, but that’s what it was. He was making each of them hide $10,000 on there body, whenever they came back from a trip to China. He had a girl in NY, who he fired, also, that was asked every month to pick up $40,000 from some Moroccan Jewish rabbi. She had to meet him in a hotel room, count the money and ship it to CA. Because this was just such a small part of the job, they just did what they were told. The rabbi got arrested an the girl got fired. The owner of the company just got worried about some of the other employees and fired them too.
Her husband advised her to just sign the agreement and take her money and run because the trouble that the owner of the company could cause was was not worth the satisfaction of turning him in.
When you sign the paper you eliminate some options, but they have to comply with State Law.
The state protects against Age, Race and Religious discrimination and provides an avenue to pursue one's grievances.........Other than that, rather than try and interpret what you have posted, why don't your give us your synopsis?
That is why I said in my post:” They almost all think this way.” There are a few exceptions not many though.
Get his Business Card and ask for written opinion if he blows you off, Mau, Mauing the Flack Catchers can be fun.
You probably could get another month or two out of them without a whole lot of wrangling if you are a not afraid to negotiate a little. They just want you to sign and go away.
My company recently started putting this language in all employment agreements for new hires.
I don't mean to cast any aspersions on your own situation but I want to get that out there for other Freepers who might benefit from this information. Be careful out there. I try to only access Free Republic from a personal computer or phone device.
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