Your Top Five Lay-off Questions Answered

Last Updated Apr 14, 2009 7:54 AM EDT


  • The Find: Getting laid off is stressful enough, you shouldn't have to worry about your rights under the law as well, so one blog has answers to the most common lay-off and severance questions.
  • The Source: The New York Employment Lawyer blog.
The Takeaway: With a parade of lay-off stories in the headlines in recent months a few things are certain: plenty of people who are still employed are asking themselves about their rights should they lose their jobs, and those unfortunate enough to have been laid off have enough to worry about making their mortgage payments without stressing over the finer points of employment law. For both groups, the New York Employment Lawyer blog has come to the rescue, offering answers to five of the most common lay-off related questions:
  1. Will my employer revoke my severance if I ask for more? Answer: Not likely so long as you ask nicely and make reasonable requests. The company has offered severance because it wants to keep things as smooth as possible and a polite request should not jeopardize the offer.
  2. Do I have a legal right to get a severance package if I am laid-off? Answer: No. The only people who have a legal right to severance payments are top executives who have written employment contracts.
  3. Can I sue for wrongful termination because my company had no reason to fire me? Answer: Not likely. Most everyone is an employee-at-will and that means exactly what it says. You can quit for any reason and likewise your employer can fire you for any reason.
  4. I am worried that I might get laid-off, what should I do now to protect myself? Answer: A. Make yourself valuable so that you can easily get another job. Start networking, update your resume, keep your eye-out for other jobs, and acquire the skills that companies need.
    B. Bring everything that you might need in the future out of your office and take it home. [Don't take anything that is not yours.]
    C. If you think you are being discriminated against and have evidence of discrimination, than make a copy and take it home. For example, if you are in your 50s or 60s and things are being reshuffled in favor of younger employees, you might want to keep track of how things looked before and after the shuffle.
  5. How can I tell if my severance package is fair? Answer: There is no magic severance formula or legal severance requirement... a large factor is the financial health of the company, so today many companies are offering less severance pay.
The blog does not specify if any of the answers apply only to New York State, so those working in other states may want to double check before relying on this advice. Readers in HR positions: are things roughly the same in your state or country?

(Image of layoffs letters by lisa.williams, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.