With the number of layoffs, employee rights are a hot topic during rough economic times. Employee rights vary from state to state, but there are a few things you can do to get to the core of what you deserve when you lose your job.
What Are the Layoff Employee Rights
First, if you had a contract with your employer, check that to see what the listed rights are. You may also want to contact your company's Human Resources department if there is one. Even if you are being laid off, they can still answer any questions you have and possibly give you better news than you expected.
Any unemployment benefits you receive will depend upon:
- Your state's laws and eligibilities
- How long you were with the company
- It wasn't your fault you were let go
- How much you made when you were with your employer
File quickly once you are laid off because it sometimes takes a few weeks for the benefits to start.
Laws by State
If you live in Mississippi, there may be a different set of layoff employee rights than those for someone who lives in New York, for example. If you've checked your contract and spoken with someone from your company's Human Resources department (or you just don't have one), you can go to your state's labor department to find out more about your rights as a worker who has been laid off.
To get to your particular state's website, you can usually type in http://www.state.yourstate'sabbreviation.us. For example someone looking for layoff employee rights in Florida would type in "http://www.state.fl.us." You could also visit the Department of Labor's Location Map for additional help.
For general United States inquiries, you can visit the US Department of Labor's website.
You may have heard rumors swirling about a layoff coming soon, but did you get official warning? Were you even required by law to get one? Maybe, maybe not. If your employer has 100 or more employees and it is a mass layoff, you are entitled to at least a 60-day warning under the WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) Act so that you have time to find and train for a new job. Job position does not matter, whether you were paid hourly or were a manager who received a salary. You are entitled to your benefits and pay through this 60-day period unless you start a new job in the meantime.
Even if you weren't entitled to the WARN Act because your employer didn't have enough employees, you may be entitled to insurance coverage called COBRA. Does your employer provide a group insurance plan? Does the employer have more than 20 employees? You and your family may be eligible for extended insurance benefits at a (sometimes) higher price than you were paying before but at a lower price than you would pay for a private plan. If you are eligible, make sure you look carefully into COBRA before signing up, but do so quickly because you only have 30 days after your other insurance benefits run out to sign up.
Final and Severance Pay
You should not have to wait long to get your final paycheck. You should get it the day you leave or very soon after, usually no more than thirty days, though the specific requirements will vary from state to state. This is not just to include your salary or hourly pay for the time you've put in up until the last day of employment. If your employer owes you for overtime, bonuses, expense reimbursements, or anything else, that is part of the "final pay" and should be issued at or by the same time.
Not everyone will get severance pay. If it was included as part of your contract, then you should receive it, but not all employers grant severance pay.
A Final Word
You may feel completely hopeless when the layoff announcement arrives. However, there are layoff employee rights at the federal, state, and company levels to take some of the sting out of the bad news. Make sure you investigate your rights thoroughly at all levels and apply for benefits quickly after your layoff.