What to Do If You're Fired
Here's a list of suggestions:
- Ask your employer to put the reason you were fired in writing.
- Obtain copies of your employment records, including evaluations and disciplinary actions.
- Study your employee manual’s sections on employment termination. If your employer did not follow its own guidelines, you may be in a better position to contest the decision or at least negotiate better terms for your termination.
- Consider reporting your termination to your union if you have one.
- If you are asked to sign any paperwork, carefully read it and consider consulting an attorney first, because signing the document may limit your options down the road. For example, you may be asked to sign a severance agreement that includes a waiver of any future claims against your employer in return for a final payment.
- Request a letter of reference. Try to negotiate about the information you do or do not want shared with prospective employers if they inquire.
- Ask about continuing health insurance coverage for yourself and your dependents under COBRA or other laws. If your spouse/partner or spouse/partner’s legal children were covered under your insurance policy, their coverage often will end on your last day of work unless your employer has arranged for a different plan with the insurer.
- Collect statements of co-workers who may have witnessed discriminatory treatment against you and other employees who are LGBT or living with HIV.
- Don’t make angry accusations or threats, but you may want to send a formal letter of complaint to the company’s human resources department, especially if you know the company has an equal employment opportunity officer or ombudsman. If you are considering a lawsuit, talk to an attorney first, as your statements and actions after being fired can affect your claim.
In most states, most workers are employed “at will.” If you do not have an employment contract and you don’t belong to a union, you are most likely an employee at will.
“At-will” employees can be fired for any reason, with or without notice—but not for a discriminatory or illegal reason (i.e., race or sex) as defined by federal, state or local law.
An employment contract or employee handbook may include specific information about how to make a work-related complaint, but employers’ internal rules about handling complaints are not always enforceable as binding promises.