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Employment Law -- Employee

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Your Employee Rights When Your Job Ends

Leaving your job is not easy. If you are fired, downsized, or laid off then you are likely nervous about the future and your own financial security. Even leaving by choice to relocate or start a new job can cause a lot of anxiety.

In either case, there are things that you need to be aware of so that you receive everything that the law entitles you to. The government has been careful to provide workers with a safety net if they find themselves between jobs. While workers still need to find work and find it quickly, these benefits can allow them to do so without losing their homes or filing for bankruptcy and are, therefore, especially important in difficult economic times when many workers are facing the same challenges.

If You Are Laid Off

The first thing to remember when you are laid off is that you are entitled to receive your regular pay from the time you are notified of the layoff until your last day of work. The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires most employers who employ 100 or more employees to provide 60 days advance notice of plant closings and mass layoffs and continue to pay employees during that period.

Six states (California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Tennessee) also have their own layoff notice warnings laws. Collective bargaining agreements and individual contracts may also provide specific notice requirements concerning layoffs.

After the notice period ends and your job ends, you are likely entitled to unemployment benefits to help you meet your financial obligations while you look for another job.

Additionally, many laid-off employees are eligible under the federal COBRA law to continue their workplace health insurance plan, although it will likely cost more than while you were working. Typically, you will be able to remain on your COBRA insurance for up to 18 months.

If You Resign or Quit

When you resign a position you are usually not entitled to unemployment benefits, although exceptions may apply. The reason is that unemployment benefits are meant to provide income to people who are not working through no fault of their own. So, if it was truly your decision to resign then you would not be entitled to benefits. If you attempted to file for benefits, your former employer may contest it. Health insurance is different, however, and COBRA does apply to people who resign on their own and who are entitled to COBRA benefits.

If You Were Fired for Cause

If your employer fired you for cause, such as gross negligence or illegal activity, then you will likely be ineligible for many of the rights and benefits that employees who are laid off or resign receive.

That means that you may be denied unemployment benefits and COBRA benefits. However, your employer may choose not to contest you filing for unemployment benefits, in which case you could still receive them.

If your situation applies to any of the above categories, you may also choose to purchase health insurance on your state's exchange, or you may be eligible for Medicaid coverage.