I received a letter from someone who is about to be fired and is thinking ahead, most of the time people are scrambling after the fact. Sometimes you see the signs in your organization or from your boss that you are about to be fired is about to happen, what do you do? Here’s her letter:

First, thank you for your article about termination settlements. It was very helpful. Second, I am anticipating being fired on Wednesday. I have been an outstanding worker but due to personalities, my guess is that this will happen. I believe my manager told my coworker which, I assume, would be a violation of my rights. I am a trainer and see that my name is only on the schedule up until Wednesday morning. My manager has been on vacation for the past few days but I have been informed that a meeting w/HR has been called upon his return.

I have never been in this situation before. So if they ask me to sign something, do I have the right to not sign it until I review it or get someone to review it? You said it’s not something the company can use against you in terms of not providing your last pay check. Also, what is a typical settlement? I’ve been with this company for two years. It is a private company so I’m not sure if that changes things or not.

If this indeed does happen, is it possible to ask for a letter of recommendation in addition for any negative contents of your file be removed? Does signing it waive unemployment? Or if you put ‘do not agree’ or ‘recognized receipt only’, does that enable you to get unemployment? I have two sons heading off to college in a week so this loss of income would be very difficult.

I just want to be prepared. I contend this is wrongful termination but based on the statutes you and others listed, proving anything would be almost impossible even if I have email documentation of an unfair situation. The reason being is that it’s not related to sex, race, religion, etc. just due to personalities.

I deeply appreciate any help or guidance you can provide.

Have a wonderful day!
About to be Fired

First of all, even though it is stressful and upsetting that you may be fired on Wednesday, you are in a MUCH better place to handle the discussion that will occur and make decisions that will benefit you. Too often when someone is about to be fired, they are caught off guard and make mistakes.

All the signs you point to – the lack of work being scheduled and having an HR meeting very strong clues that you are about to be fired.

The fact that you manager may have shared that you will be terminated with another employee is not a violation of your rights. In my opinion it may be poor management practices but there are always exceptions. For example, if the other person is going to absorb your work or have to make adjustments to accommodate a schedule, then they may be told in advance. I realize it is upsetting that someone else knows your business however; the company will make business decisions in their best interest, not yours.

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Another thing you have going for you is that it seems the company is large, which means they should know legally what they can and cannot do in the meeting. The best thing you can do is go in ready for the meeting and keep your cool. Remember you do NOT have to make any final decisions in the meeting. Here are a few pointers:

  • Do not sign any documents. Tell them you will review them when you have a chance to look at them with a clear head. Ask them what the time line is returning the information. The reason for this is that you want to be clear what you are signing – are you giving up any rights in return for more separation pay. Even if they say this is this the standard agreement, take it away and read it later.
  • If the documents are confusing, get advice from a lawyer or someone who understands how to interpret the information so that you can make informed decisions.
  • Company settlements have been less generous over the last few years. Larger companies have policies in place for standard separation pay. They will let you know if you are getting the standard or if they want you to sign off an agreement that gives you extra pay where you agree to hold them harmless.
  • Ask the company if it is not stated in the termination paperwork what the reason is their reason for termination. Until you know that, you won’t know if there may be a fight with unemployment.
  • Asking for a letter of recommendation is something you can do – consider if that is the right time. You’ll know based on how the termination discussion goes on Wednesday. They may be less likely to cooperate if you don’t sign off on everything. Not signing their paperwork means more work and follow-up for them and leaves them in an uncertain state. Personally, I would leave that for later as a potential negotiation point.
  • You don’t have to have anything signed to get unemployment. Knowing how the company is going to position your termination is important in how you present your case the unemployment.

I realize that time is tight, however, I would suggest that you or anyone else that is about to be fired or has just been fired, pick up my eBook: What to Do After Being Fired. It will help you get through many of challenges you will be facing ahead.