Employment termination: what do I do?
As an employment lawyer, I have heard many heart breaking stories of people who have been “downsized”, “outsourced” or simply “terminated”. Losing a job is a devastating experience, not only because of the loss of livelihood, but also because of the employee’s loss of identity, loss of motivation and through the unfortunate stigma which is often associated with being unemployed.
Unfortunately, the reality of our economy is that job loss is a reality in business, and for the terminated employee, life must continue on. In my experience, terminated employees that are best able to adapt to these changes and protect their interests will do four things:
1. Stay calm – Losing your job is a devastating and stressful ordeal. Through this difficult time, it is very important to remain calm and focused. Although emotions are high, it is important that all decisions be made rationally and be properly thought out.
2. Don’t feel pressured - Many employers will use different pressure tactics when terminating staff, one of which is to provide very short deadlines for accepting a severance package. Unfortunately, most employees are not aware that negotiating severance is a two way street. Rather than being pressured into meeting strict deadlines, it is entirely appropriate for employees to request the time that they need to seek advice and to think about their options.
3. Get advice - Getting advice can include talking to an employment lawyer, a counselor or psychologist, phoning somebody through your employee assistance plan, or consulting union representatives. Through education comes empowerment and the realization that the employee is still in control. I would also stress that speaking to a lawyer is particularly valuable, as they may be able to inform you of other legal remedies, including employment standards and human rights legislation.
4. Create a plan – Regardless of who you plan to consult, create a plan of action. As in all cases, we are most compelling when we are prepared. If you feel that you are entitled to a larger severance package, do your research, understand why you are entitled to more, and present your case. Also, do not forget some of the benefits that you had received over the course of your employment. If you received an annual bonus, pension contributions, or health and disability benefits, ask that your employer continue them for a period of time. I also would not hesitate to ask for a letter of reference, especially if you are a good employee with a positive record. Without a doubt, when negotiating a severance package, if you don’t ask, you won’t receive.
Strategies used following employee terminations are always based on the facts that surround them and will vary for each case. However, I can say with confidence that getting competent legal advice empowers employees and significantly improves the chances of arranging a fair termination settlement.
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