Job Loss – Myths and RealityAugust 26, 2013
Harrisburg Employment Attorney Explains Myths and Realities Behind Job Loss
It’s Friday afternoon and you know the worst is going to happen. Things at work have gone from bad to worse. It appears that your employer has been “setting you up” for termination. Your performance evaluations have been bad recently, but surprisingly over your time at the company they have been generally good. You are very anxious because you have a family to support and bills to pay.
This post gives you some idea of your rights under Pennsylvania and Federal law at the time your job is terminated. Please feel free to contact the Harrisurg employment law attorneys of DZMM if you need counseling about job loss or potential job loss. It is always better to contact an attorney before you are terminated so you know your legal rights.
Myths about That Last Day at Work
If you are unable to contact an attorney before termination, here are some commonly held myths about the last day.
First, many people mistakenly believe that they are entitled to severance pay at the time of termination. While severance pay will soften the blow of the immediate income loss, it is not legally required. Pennsylvania still uses the concept of “at will” employment. This means that you can be terminated for a good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all. Likewise, you can leave your employment any time you wish. While a two-week notice is customary and helps to maintain relationships with former employers, it is not legally required.
However, what happens if you are terminated on a Friday afternoon and it is five o’clock and you are presented with a severance package? You are told by your employer that if you don’t sign the Release forms, that you will not receive your severance. What do you do?
This depends on your age. If you are over forty (40) years old, you are protected by the Federal law known as the Older Worker Benefit Protection Act. This Act ensures that older workers have at least twenty-one (21) days to review any Severance Agreement with their accountant, attorney or family members. They are permitted to review the document before signing, so that the employer does not have an unfair advantage at employment termination. This is the appropriate time to seek legal help to determine whether or not the Severance Agreement is fair. The Severance Agreement will often contain a Release that will require releasing your employer from all claims related to discrimination or public policy issues related to your employment. This means that you can no longer sue your employment for these types of issues. For this reason, the Severance Agreement should be reviewed by an attorney to determine whether there were any possible issues outstanding. Generally speaking, an employer cannot require that you give up unemployment or workers’ compensation claims, since they are benefits which are available to you if you fit other State law criteria. The purpose of the Severance Agreement generally is to seek your waiver of claims, and give the employer some comfort that you will not be disparaging them or possibly suing them in the future. The advantage to you is that you will have some compensation available to you to pay bills while you begin your job search.
Another reason that you may want to consult an attorney after termination is to determine whether or not you are eligible for unemployment benefits. This will be a subject for a further blog. However, it is important that you consider whether to resign before you are terminated.
That letter of resignation can disqualify you from unemployment benefits. Regardless of your age, this is an important consideration. If you “voluntarily” resign, you are not eligible for unemployment. You may be told by your employer that “it is better to resign than be fired,” but you should always consult with an attorney to determine whether or not this will disqualify you from unemployment. In the current economy, it may take a considerable amount of time for you to become re-employed. Unemployment benefits can help you to pay bills until you can find other suitable employment.
If you have any questions about job loss or unemployment benefits, please feel free to contact Daley Zucker Meilton & Miner, and ask for Steven Miner.