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What are your rights if you're laid off?

Good Question: What are your rights if you're laid off?
Good Question: What are your rights if you're laid off? 02:45

MINNEAPOLIS – It's been a rough go for workers at major tech companies. 

Facebook's parent company, Meta, drew the first big headline last November with 11,000 layoffs.

Then it was Amazon announcing it would let go of 18,000 workers.

Microsoft followed with 10,000 layoffs, while Google's parent company Alphabet said 12,000 employees would lose their jobs.

In 2023 alone, more than 234 tech companies have laid off nearly 76,000 workers according to

Are certain industries in Minnesota letting go of employees more than others?

"We've seen a couple larger companies that maybe hired aggressively or are changing strategy to do some layoffs, but nobody within a specific industry," said Kathy Northamer, district president with staffing agency Robert Half.

Hiring workers appears to be the main move locally. A Robert Half survey found 60% percent of Minnesota respondents are expanding by adding new positions, while 38% are trying to fill vacant positions. But that's not everyone's reality.

"Despite record employment rates, we're getting phone calls literally every day from people affected by layoffs," said Charles Horowitz, an employment attorney at Halunen Law in Minneapolis.

If someone has just received a layoff notice, what are their next steps? 

"Typically in a situation of a layoff, job restructure, reduction in force, an employer is going to give the affected employee a written severance proposal," said Horowitz. "If you're in the small minority of employees who have a contract of employment, that contract is going to govern what rights you're entitled to in terms of severance."


Prior to accepting a severance package, Horowitz said workers should question:

* If other people in the company should have been selected for layoff

* If you're part of a legally protected class including race, age, gender, disability, nationality, sexual orientation, religion

* If you recently took time off for medical leave, including birth or adoption of a child

"If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it's important to contact a lawyer," he said.

There are some key federal statutes to be aware of, as well. First is the Work Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act). If you're part of a mass layoff, the WARN Act requires employers to give workers 60 days' notice before their job is eliminated.

Another to analyze has to do with your age. It's called the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act. It requires that workers ages 40 and up get special considerations beyond what's entitled in the standard severance package. It works like a safety net to ensure older workers aren't singled out for layoffs because of their age.

Horowitz said it's a problem his office has noticed.

"We're seeing a virtual epidemic of layoffs affecting older workers, especially as employees reach retirement age because they tend to be more expensive. So, the question always arises whether or not they've been specifically targeted on account of their age," he said.

If a Minnesotan immediately loses their job, they shouldn't have to wait long to get paid. 

"Under Minnesota law, an employer must pay you your earned and unpaid wages with 24 hours, regardless of whether there's a two week pay period," said Horowitz, referencing statute 181.13.

If you are laid off, you should file for unemployment immediately. That's because there's a three-week waiting period before the first benefit check arrives.

For those who got their health insurance through their job and get laid off, you could be eligible for COBRA, which allows you to continue your coverage for you and your family for up to 18 months. Your other choice is to shop for an individual healthcare plan thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

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