Employment Law -- Employee

Your Employee Rights When Your Job Ends

Key Takeaways

  • Federal law requires most large employers to provide 60 days advance notice of plant closings and mass layoffs.
  • Many laid-off employees are eligible under COBRA to continue their health insurance coverage.
  • Employees who are laid off are also typically able to get unemployment benefits.

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

After you leave a job, you still have rights related to your employment. These can include unemployment benefits, health insurance, and severance pay. These benefits help you to transition between jobs. Unfortunately, your employers may not make it clear that you have any protections.

Employment and labor regulations fall under federal law and state laws. If you have questions about your employment rights after leaving a job or think you’re being denied benefits, talk to an employment law attorney.

What Are Your Options if You Are Laid Off?

If you are laid off, you may be able to receive regular pay from the notification of the layoff until the 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. These employers have to continue to pay employees during that period.

Some states (including California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Tennessee) also have their own labor laws regarding layoff warnings. Collective bargaining agreements and individual employment contracts may also provide specific notice requirements for layoffs.

After your job ends, you can get 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 workplace health insurance coverage. However, it will likely cost much more than while you were working. Typically, you will be able to continue your COBRA health care coverage for up to 18 months.

What Are Your Rights if You Resign or Quit?

Most jobs in the U.S. are subject to at-will employment. This means you can leave your job whenever you want. It also means that your employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at all. However, you can’t be fired for an illegal reason, like employment discrimination or reporting sexual harassment.

When you resign, you are usually not entitled to unemployment benefits. Unemployment compensation is to provide income to people who are not working through no fault of their own. If it was your decision to resign, then you may not have unemployment insurance benefits. If you attempted to file for benefits, your former employer may contest it.

Health insurance is different, and COBRA does apply to former employees who resign on their own.

What Are Your Rights 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 listed above.

That means that your employer may deny unemployment benefits and COBRA benefits. However, your employer may choose not to contest your filing for unemployment benefits. You may also choose to purchase health insurance on your state’s exchange, or you may be eligible for Medicaid coverage.

What if Your Job Ends Because of an Injury?

If you suffer an injury on the job, you can claim workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ comp covers injuries or illnesses that happen when you are working. If your employer tries to deny your workers’ compensation insurance claim, you can appeal the claim. You can also talk to an employment attorney about your legal options.

How Can an Employment Attorney Help?

You have employee rights after leaving a job because of layoffs, a workplace injury, or wrongful termination. Terminated employees can take their employers to court to enforce their employment rights. If your employer didn’t give you your final paycheck or other benefits, talk to an employment lawyer about your legal rights.

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