The abrupt and unceremonious manner in which thousands of Twitter employees were fired last week was a spectacle.
But it was also a helpful reminder that while employers can get rid of many workers at will (and without any grace), employees aren’t without rights when they’re laid off en masse.
Here is a brief overview of what employees need to know.
For a factory closure or a collective dismissal, you should receive at least 60 days notice, under the federal Worker Accommodation Redirection Notification (WARN) law. Some states may require longer notice – New York, for example, requires 90 days. and states can also set stricter standards than federal law, such as requiring employers with fewer workers to comply with the WARN Act.
If an employer is found to have violated the WARN Act, in addition to paying penalties to the state, they will be required to pay up to 60 days (or more, depending on state requirements) of salary and benefits arrears to those who have been made redundant. depending on the number of days’ notice actually given by the company.
“Notice” in this case means notifying the community as a whole but also each individual who will be laid off, said labor attorney Michael DuPont, who is managing shareholder of the Minnesota-based law firm Wagner, Falconer & Judd and provides also legal services through LegalShield.
If a company terminates you abruptly, it can be found to have complied with the WARN Act as long as the effective date of your termination is at least 60 days after the day you were notified that you were terminated, said the labor lawyer. Alex Granovsky, co-founder of New York law firm Granovsky & Sundaresh.
Technically, you will remain on the company payroll and continue to receive salary and benefits in the meantime, and then any severance you are awarded would kick in.
Fun Fact: No law — federal or state — requires employers to offer you severance pay when they fire you, unless you have a union or individual employment contract that provides for it.
That said, many employers offer some form of severance pay to protect against any potential legal claims you may have as a result of your employment or termination.
A second reason why many offer severance pay: “Goodwill and fairness to employees and to the community as a whole. Offer additional compensation in recognition of the potentially difficult time that the employee and the community [experience]“, said DuPont.
An employer will want you to give up certain rights in exchange for money.
In short, “the company covers itself in all the ways in which a former employee can harm [it]said Granovsky.
Generally, you waive your right to bring an action against the company, such as discrimination, hostile work environment, violation of pay, or any other alleged wrongdoing.
You’ll also typically have to agree to several clauses that prohibit you from harming the business, he said. They understand:
A confidentiality clause: This clause prohibits you from sharing details of company activity or even the terms of your severance agreement.
A non-disparagement clause: This prohibits you from bashing the place.
A cooperation clause: You agree to help the company if it is sued in the future over a matter you know something about as a result of your tenure there.
A non-cooperation clause: This prohibits you from helping someone else who is trying to sue the business.
A non-solicitation clause: This usually means that you cannot poach clients or employees of your future former employer if you start working elsewhere or start your own business.
Waiver of these types of rights does not, however, exempt the employer from having to pay you what is already owed, such as a pension or paid vacation or sick leave. “The consideration offered for waiving the right to sue…must be something of value in addition to any existing employee rights,” notes the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) .
If you think you have legitimate claims against the company, your employer would almost certainly prefer you not to sue, so he’ll probably be more willing to negotiate the terms of your severance package.
“A company would rather pay $100 now to avoid having to pay $150 later,” DuPont said.
If you don’t have solid arguments that could justify filing a complaint, which you could use as a bargaining chip, you can always try to explain why your employer could sweeten your severance package.
“Asking is fine. You should ask. There is no harm in asking,” Granovsky said.
You could claim more months of paid health benefits if you or a family member on your insurance plan is battling cancer, DuPont noted as an example. Or if you are a long-time employee in good standing or if you have a special skill set that the employer might want to tap into in the future, you could make a compelling case for why the company should offer you extra pay.
Since a severance agreement is an important legal document that will affect your immediate future, it may be worth having the company’s offer reviewed by an employment lawyer with experience in employment cases. dismissal.
If hiring an attorney directly is too expensive, you might consider a cheaper service like LegalShield, which only charges about $30 per month to get access to a labor attorney in your state who can review your offer. make sure it complies with the law and call your employer on your behalf if you want to change the agreement.
If your case is complicated and involves other legal proceedings, or if your separation agreement is longer than 15 pages, your fees will be higher, but you will receive a discount on the hourly fees of the lawyer handling your case .
Or, if you just have very simple questions, some labor lawyers can offer you a free consultation over the phone.
Under federal law, if you are 40 or older, you must have at least 45 days on a mass termination (21 days if your termination is not part of a mass termination) to decide whether to whether or not to sign your dismissal agreement.
In either case, if you accept the offer, you must also have 7 days to change your mind.
That said, each state may have its own requirements above the federal minimum requirements, DuPont said. So check your state’s Department of Labor website to see what their specific requirements are.
Many employers can stop your severance if the company rehires you for a new position.
If you find a job elsewhere or start freelancing for others, some employers may choose to reduce your severance pay if your new source of income is less than what you received before.
“They can say, ‘If you make less money, we’ll just pay the delta,'” Granovsky said.
In either case, your severance agreement should explicitly state what the employer’s policy is. So don’t sign it until you are clear on these terms.
But if the agreement is silent on the matter, you can probably continue to receive your severance pay while earning income from another source. “So it’s a win for the employee,” DuPont said.
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