LEGAL GUIDE
Written by Avvo Staff | Jan 12, 2016

Your rights after termination of employment

What you're entitled to if you've lost your job

Knowing when termination of employment is legal, and what rights you have as an employee, will make it easier to handle the challenges a termination can pose.

Do employers have to give you a reason for your termination?

Employers don't always have to provide a reason for termination. If you're at-will employee, the company can terminate you at any time for any reason (or even for no reason at all). If you're not an at-will employee, however, the business must give you a reason for termination.

Keep in mind that employers are prohibited from terminating employees based on certain factors. Businesses can't fire employees for taking medical leave, family leave, or military leave, and they can't fire employees for serving on a jury. Employers likewise can't fire employees as retaliation for reporting violations or illegal activity in the workplace.

Employers are also responsible for observing federal anti-discrimination laws when considering termination of employment. Employees are protected based on religion, disability, age, gender, and race, and businesses can't fire employees for these reasons.

What can you do if you were unfairly terminated?

Whether you suspect you were unfairly terminated or not, it's important to keep an accurate record of your dealings with your employer. A written employment contract that ensures your job security, for instance, can serve as an important piece of evidence in an unfair termination case.

Not all unfair terminations require written evidence, though. Many employees have [verbal or implied contracts, which are based on your prior history of promotions and performance reviews or the length of your employment.

Other actions by your employer can also lead to unfair termination. Fraud during the recruitment process or leading up to an employee's resignation can be deemed unfair, as can defamation.

Keeping careful records of your employment contract, your work performance, and your reason for termination can help you in the event of a wrongful termination. Store these documents in a secure place that you'll be able to access after your employment ends. If the worst happens, consider contacting an employment attorney to discuss your options and learn more about how to pursue your case.

What are your rights in terms of receiving your final pay?

After termination, your employer is responsible for providing you with a final paycheck that includes all owed compensation. The date by which you must receive your final paycheck varies from state to state. In some states, your employer is required to give you your final paycheck immediately, while in others you must receive it by the next payday.

In some cases, employers will provide you with severance pay upon termination. This varies depending on the termination conditions and will typically be communicated to you in writing. In addition to your final paycheck, you should also be eligible to retain access to your vested 401(K) or any profit-sharing benefits.

What are your rights in terms of continued health insurance coverage?

If your employer doesn't provide you with continued health insurance coverage as a termination of employment benefit, you may be eligible to continue your coverage through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). This program allows you to continue your existing policy and receive your preexisting health insurance benefits for up to 18 months. This can be a good option if you need to continue your existing polity but can't purchase it in the Health Care Marketplace.

Keep in mind that only employers that have a workforce of 20 employees or more must provide coverage through COBRA. It's also important to note that if you opt for COBRA coverage, you're generally responsible for the total cost of the monthly premiums.

What are your rights when it comes to filing for unemployment?

In most cases, losing your job due to firing or layoffs entitles you to file for unemployment benefits. These benefits provide you with financial compensation for a period of time in order to make up for some of the lost income.

You must meet certain requirements in order to be eligible for benefits, so be sure to understand what your state requires before filing for unemployment. If your employer terminated you for stealing from the workplace, disobeying documented rules, or engaging in violent acts in the workplace, you might lose your ability to file for unemployment.

A lost job can present a major challenge both financially and professionally. But acting carefully, and understanding the legal employment termination procedure in your state, will help ensure that you can exercise your rights.

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