Employee Rights Following a Job Loss
Most employment relationships are "at will," meaning employers are free to terminate employees at any time and for any reason -- as long as it's not illegal (such as discrimination) or in violation of a contract. But -- assuming you either quit your job, were legally laid off, or legally terminated -- you still have a few rights as you depart. These include:
Even in states with "at-will" employment laws, there are certain instances where it is illegal to terminate an employee. When someone is fired for unlawful reasons, the terminated employee may file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If the EEOC finds merit in the claim after investigating, then the claimant may file a civil lawsuit. Damages may include reinstatement and monetary awards.
Most cases of unlawful termination involve discrimination on the basis of one or more protected characteristics. Federal law prohibits termination on the basis of race, color, gender, pregnancy, age, disability, religion, or national origin. Some states -- including California -- extend these protections to LGBT individuals or other marginalized segments of the population.
Employees also may file claims if actions or policies had the effect of discriminating against a protected class, leading to termination, even if it didn't appear to be direct or even intentional. This is referred to as "disparate impact" discrimation and often leads to class action suits.
Workers who lose their job may apply for monetary benefits through their state's unemployment insurance (UI) program until they become employed again. Some applicants may also receive extended benefits while attending school to retrain for a new occupation. But in order to be eligible for these benefits, the employee has to have lost her job through no fault of her own.
While most employees who quit their job or are terminated are not eligible for UI benefits, those who were wrongfully terminated or quit for a valid reason that was caused by the employer can. In the latter scenario, the standard used is whether a reasonable person in a similar employment situation also would have left.
UI benefits typically are payable for up to 26 weeks, although the federal government (which provides partial funding to state UI programs) will often extend this during times of economic hardship. If you are denied benefits and believe this decision was reached in error, you may request an UI hearing.
Click on a link below for more information about the legal and practical implications of losing a job.
This article takes an in depth look at the application process for unemployment insurance, how benefits are calculated, and the continuing application process required to receive unemployment insurance benefits.
In general, an at-will employment relationship means that either the employer or the employee is free to end the relationship at any time, with or without advance notice, and for any reason (or no reason) at all. Employment relationships are presumed...
Constructive dismissal, also known as constructive discharge or constructive termination, is a modified claim of wrongful termination . Wrongful constructive dismissal occurs when, instead of firing the employee, the employer wrongfully makes working...
If you believe you have lost your job for an unlawful reason, you may have a claim for wrongful termination against your former employer, even if you were fired "for cause." Because bringing a wrongful termination action can be challenging and involv...
More about unemployment insurance eligibility, including how the kind of termination impacts your ability to collect benefits and how long you need to have worked before collecting unemployment.
Learn about different types of employees and what rights each kind of employee has after termination. This overview article includes information about receiving your last paycheck, severance pay, and more.
Losing a job can be terrifying. The following suggestions are meant to help cope with this sudden change in finances, such as budgeting carefully and seeking new sources of income
Employment relationships are presumed to be "at-will" in all states except Montana. In general, an at-will employment relationship means that either the employer or the employee is free to end the relationship at any time and for any reason (or no re...
Losing a job is often a stressful and traumatizing experience, particularly when it comes as a surprise. Employees who've been laid off, terminated, or left on their own accord may have questions about continuation of health benefits, unpaid wages, o...
Regardless of the circumstances under which you left your job, you are still entitled to receive your last paycheck in a timely fashion. Check out this article to find out all the rules for getting your last paycheck.