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How do I know if I should quit my awful job?

(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,

In my small group of 15 people at my company, three were fired for "performance reasons." Each of these people were employed for more than 10 years. Normally, under-performing employees in this company are laid off, and the company has had a lot of layoffs. In firing them instead of laying them off, the company saved money on severance, which is normally paid at one week of severance per year worked. When it fires people, the company will give the terminated employee up to two weeks salary. The company asked each of these employees to resign instead of being fired. Two chose to resign when asked. One refused and got a lawyer to negotiate an agreement. The company is currently hiring in my group just after the last recent termination.

There are also major gender discrimination issues here. In my second-level boss's organization of 70 people, I am the only woman. There were two other women -- one was fire, one quit. This boss has attempted to fire me four times in my four-and-a-half years, but has not been successful. I am planning to leave (the job and the industry) soon and decided that if I were fired prior to when I was ready to leave I would file complaints with both the state and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But if I could leave on my own terms when ready, I would not file complaints. I have documentation for numerous discrimination events and am still within my 300 days for filing.

I have already decided to leave and have been accepted into an academic program. What might I have done differently in these circumstances? What is the best course of action for an employee who is fired, but then asked to resign? That could easily have been my fate.

You are absolutely making the right decision in leaving this job. When you work for people who are willing to be underhanded, law-breaking jerks, the best thing is to move on as quickly as you can. So many people hang on just hoping that things will magically get better. I swear, some people show more loyalty to a bad employer than to their spouse.

So what could you have done differently? Well, there are two schools of thought. One is that you should stand up for yourself, file lawsuits and document the heck out of everything. Never give up! The other is to get the heck out of there as fast as humanly possible.

While I'll always, always,always tell people to document the heck out of any illegal or immoral behavior going on at the office, I'm also generally in the "get out of Dodge" camp. Yes, I'm all for truth, justice and the American way, but I'm also for sanity and the free market. If good people refuse to work for jerks, the free market will weed them out, thus solving the problem. Plus, the only winners in a lawsuit are the lawyers. A winning lawsuit may net you some cash, but it will take years of your life, drain you emotionally and mentally and may damage your career.

The fact that your entire company seems messed up is one that leads me again toward the just find a new job and move on advice. You can sometimes fix a bad boss. You can often transfer to another department. But if the culture is corrupt, you'd have a hard time fixing it even if you were CEO.

What about being fired, but then being asked to resign instead? Don't do it. What do you have to gain? As employment attorney Donna Ballman writes, "Just because your boss or HR comes to you and says you have to resign doesn't mean you should. My usual advice is never, ever resign unless you have another job lined up or the company offers you an incentive to resign that makes it worth your while."

What kind of incentive? A big severance check is a good incentive, for instance. No matter what they try to convince you of, recruiters know that when you say, "I resigned without another job lined up" that there is a big red flag there. It's better to be able to answer, "I was laid off." As for unemployment benefits, while you may qualify by saying that you were forced to resign, if the company fights your claim and can present a letter, signed by you, saying that you were resigning, forget it.

Congratulations on your new academic adventure. And even more congratulations on leaving your job.

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