When the economy slows, companies run into difficulties, businesses scale back their workforce, and layoffs increase. Rumors may start flying that lay-offs are imminent and jobs are at risk. In fact, if you look at what has happened with major corporations recently, downsizing is often not predictable.
That's why it's important to be be prepared to change jobs, because a lay-off could happen to any of us, often without warning. It's also important to know what your rights as an employee are when you lose your job.
Jay Warren, counsel in the New York office of Bryan Cave LLP, shares his expertise on employee rights and options for seeking assistance if you have questions about those rights, and/or if you believe you have been discriminated against or have been subjected to wrongful termination.
Source of Employee Rights:
Employees who have an individual contract with their employer or employees covered by a union/collective bargaining agreement would be covered under the stipulations in the contract if their employment is terminated.
When a company plans lay-offs it may have a severance plan in effect. If so, severance payments may be provided if your employment is terminated.
Statutory rights are those provided by federal or state law. They include unemployment insurance, advance notification of the closing of or a substantial lay-off at a facility (depending on the size of the company), anti-discrimination laws, and anti-retaliation laws.
Getting Information on Your Rights
When you're not sure about your rights, the best place to start is with the company Human Resources department. Even if they are in the process of terminating your employment, they can answer questions; let you know what company benefits you are eligible for, and can guide you through the process of leaving employment.
When You Need Help
If you feel that you have been discriminated against or haven't been treated according to the law or company policy, you can get assistance. The US Department of Labor, for example, has information on each law that regulates employment and advice on where and how to file a claim. Your state labor department may also be able to assist, depending on state law and the circumstances.
In addition, local bar associations often have a referral service and may even have a hot line you can call to find an employment lawyer. Keep in mind that you will need to pay for an attorney's services.
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