According to recently released government statistics, the official unemployment rate is over 8% and climbing steadily. Georgia Department of Labor Web Site. No one needs to be told how tough times are these days and it’s any one’s guess as to when the job market will rebound. Conventional wisdom dictates that if you currently have a job, hang on to it. If you have just been fired, the following steps are advisable:
(1) Do not sign anything until you have had a chance to consult with an experienced attorney who represents workers. Many times, a severance package and check will be presented to you by your employer under the express condition that you sign a complete release in order to get your severance and money. As tempting as this may be, do not sign anything until you have had a chance to review the documents in detail and consulted with a lawyer. Getting the money quickly may be appealing, but in order to do so, you may be signing away valuable legal rights. If you sign the release, your right to sue may be lost forever. In addition, the money you get could be costly, in the form of future restrictions to compete against your former employer and/or call on their customers.
(2) File for unemployment benefits. If you are eligible, this may be what you need to make it through these certain tough times ahead. This should be done as soon as possible. Delaying the filing for unemployment does not help you in any way and a long delay may cost you to forfeit some benefits that you otherwise may have been entitled to.
(3) Calculate your accrued benefits such as sick days, personal days, paid holidays, vacation leave and all outstanding commisions that are owed to you for sales that you made prior to being terminated. Make sure that you are compensated for these benefits. You have earned these monies and should be fully paid what you are owed.
(4) Ask your employer for continued health care coverage (COBRA). COBRA generally requires that group health plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more employees in the prior year offer employees and their families the opportunity for a temporary extension of health coverage (called continuation coverage) in certain instances where coverage under the plan would otherwise end. COBRA outlines how employees and family members may elect continuation coverage. It also requires employers and plans to provide notice.
(5) Ask your employer to fill out a form stating how long you worked for the company and why you left. It’s the law and the employer must comply with this request. It would be a good idea to seek a positive reference as part of any settlement negotiation. This can be in the form of a written and signed reference that you can keep a copy of and the original would go into your employment file. This way, you know exactly what your former employer will say about you. Why leave this to speculation and conjecture? Get it in writing to be sure.
Robert J. Fleming has been fortunate to have been able to successfully represent many clients who have recently lost their jobs. We hope these suggestions help. Please contact us to discuss your case.