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The layoffs at tech giants Twitter and Meta this week affected thousands of people – and they’re just the latest examples of a downsizing trend that was already happening in the industry.
The news has shed light on employee rights in mass termination situations. Although downsizing laws vary by location and employer size, there are steps anyone can take to deal with the layoff.
Also, dealing with the emotions surrounding a layoff is probably the hardest part for most people, but these three steps will at least help protect you financially as you contemplate what’s next in your professional life.
1. Make sure your employer followed the law
If you received a layoff notice, experts recommend checking that your employer has complied with the law.
Employment in the United States is generally “at will”, which means that a company can terminate employees at any time. But companies have responsibilities.
In mass termination situations for large companies, companies that meet certain criteria are required by federal law to provide employees with 60 days notice. The WARN Act aims to give workers enough time to seek alternative employment or retraining opportunities before losing their jobs.
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Although employees can be terminated for any reason, they cannot be terminated for an unlawful reason. “I sometimes see one person being fired,” said Kellee Boulais Kruse, director of The Employment Law Group, based in Washington, DC. “It’s quite suspicious.”
For example, if a newly laid off employee has just disclosed that they have been sexually harassed, have a disability, or are having a baby, this could be an unlawful termination. Small layoffs receive more scrutiny, but with large layoffs, it is difficult to prove that individuals were targeted if an entire department was laid off.
Don’t wait to see a lawyer if you think you have a case, advises Kruse.
2. Negotiate your starting offer
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Employers are not required by federal law to offer severance pay, but if they do, these contracts can often be negotiated.
Companies offer severance packages to keep goodwill with former employees, prevent workers from divulging company secrets and avoid potential lawsuits. Severance agreements usually come with a liability waiver that must be signed before any payment is made.
Don’t rush to sign an agreement. Although it varies depending on the age of the worker and state laws, employees usually have a few weeks before signing. “If anyone suspects they were fired or fired for an illegal reason, they should speak to a lawyer before signing,” Kruse said.
There might be room for negotiation. Often compensation amounts are set, but try to get the maximum that matches your experience and tenure in the company. Other benefits may be offered to those who request them.
“Negotiate continued health insurance if possible and see if your employer will cover your premiums during the time you receive severance pay,” said Alexandra Carter, a Columbia Law School professor and author of “Ask for More: 10 Questions to Negotiate Anything”. .”
Outplacement services, CV assistance and coaching may also be something an employer could help arrange. Some companies may allow you to keep a work-provided laptop or cell phone if you ask.
3. Prepare for what’s next
Ask for references. There’s no shame in firing, but if your firing wasn’t a high-profile event, you can ask your former employer for a letter or email stating that you were fired and not fired for cause or performance.
“You are still a valid person, a good contributor [and] you’ll find another place to go,” said Eric McNulty, associate director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at Harvard University.
Be brave in reaching out to people you may not know well, he says. “Research shows that your loose networks, those extended connections will serve you better than your immediate connections, simply because they have more opportunities than you’ve ever heard of.”
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