Terminated Employee Rights: What Every Worker Needs to Know

In a perfect world, every employment separation would be voluntary, but we do not live in such a world. In the real world, the decision to leave your job is not always your own, and it is important to know your rights should a termination happen.

Whether that employment termination is the result of a reduction in force, a targeted layoff or a disagreement with the boss, you have certain rights and responsibilities. Understanding those rights and responsibilities is the first step to protecting them, so you can land on your feet – and land a great new job. Here are some of the key rights terminated employees have in the 21st-century workplace.

Understanding At Will Employment

One of the most important distinctions to understand when it comes to termination is the nature of your employment. While some workers are employed under a contract with set terms and responsibilities on the part of the employer, most workers are considered at will employees.

In terms of employment law, at will employment gives employers the right to terminate an employee at any time, and for any reason. As long as the reason for termination is not prohibited by law, at will employees have only limited protections. Even so, the termination of an at will employee may be deemed improper if:

  • There is an implied contract that governs the terms of the employer/employee relationship. When determining the existence of an implied agreement, the court will consider a number of factors, including whether the employee was promised continued employment, and if so, the length of that employment.
  • The termination represents a violation of public policy. For instance, an employer may not fire a worker for attending jury duty, and they may not terminate employment because a worker must serve in the military.
  • The worker was terminated as a result of reporting illegal conduct on the part of the employer. Employers may not terminate workers who report legal violations in good faith.
  • The termination is discriminatory in nature. Employment discrimination is unlawful, whether that discrimination occurs during the hiring process, while on the job or upon termination. Employers may not discriminate against workers on the basis of race, religion or other protected classes. If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination, you should contact an experienced employment law attorney at once.

Workers who are not considered at will employees have additional rights when it comes to termination and compensation. If your job is covered by a contract, it is important to review the terms of that contract carefully, so you will understand your rights and know your responsibilities.

The Final Paycheck

Whether you are an at will employee or a worker who is covered by a contract, you have the right to be paid for the work you have done. Many states have specific rules governing terminated employees and their final paychecks.

In most cases, the rules concerning the final paycheck will depend on whether the worker in question quit voluntarily or was fired. The state of Connecticut, for instance, requires that companies issue the final paycheck on the next business day after the firing, and by the next payday if the employee quits.

Severance Pay

In many cases the terminated employee will be eligible for a severance pay package. That package may include payment for a set number of months or weeks, continuation of fringe benefits, or both.

The severance pay package is a contractual agreement between the employer and the employee, and the terms of the severance pay benefit is often laid out in the employee manual. Even if you are not concerned about a termination, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with your employer’s severance pay policy.

In most cases, the severance pay package will consist of a number of parts. In essence, the employer agrees to provide the terminated worker with a severance package. In return, the terminated worker promises not to sue the employer.

It is important to note that employers are under no obligation to provide severance pay to their terminated workers. While the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) places a number of requirements on employers, businesses are free to set their own severance pay policies. As a worker, it is also important to note that you may have the right to a severance package if:

  • The terms of the employment contract specify that severance pay is to be given
  • The severance pay policy is detailed in the employee handbook
  • The employer has offered severance pay to other terminated employees, especially workers in the same job or job category
  • The employer made a promise, orally or in writing, that a severance package would be offered

Regardless of their job roles, employees have certain rights, and employers have certain responsibilities. These rights govern the hiring process, the day to day interaction between employer and employee and the process of termination as well. Losing your job is never a pleasant experience, but if you feel you have been let go unfairly, it is important to fight back and protect your rights. Contacting an employment law specialist now can help you preserve and protect your rights, so you can get the compensation you deserve, preserve your rights and move forward in your career.


Call our Employment Law team at (480) 464-1111 to discuss your case today.

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