Your Layoff Rights

Layoff rights and the employee. The employer has the right to end your employment at anytime through a layoff.

In the US employment is deemed to be at will. This means employment is presumed to be voluntary for both parties and employers are allowed to protect themselves financially though layoffs.

However you are entitled to certain lay off rights. Be sure you know what these are and don't miss out.

What are your layoff rights?

What about your unemployment benefits?

Unemployment Benefits

  • In general, the Federal-State Unemployment Insurance Program provides unemployment benefits to eligible workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own (as determined under State law), and meet other eligibility requirements of State law.
  • Each State has a separate unemployment insurance program within Federal guidelines. Find out about qualifying for unemployment
  • Eligibility for unemployment insurance, benefit amounts and the length of time benefits are available are determined by the State law.
  • In general, benefits are based on a percentage of an individual's earnings over a recent 52-week period up to the State maximum amount.
  • They will also advise you on how to file for unemployment benefits in your state.

Filing for unemployment should be one of the first items on your agenda when you've been laid-off. It generally takes two to three weeks after you file your claim to receive your first benefit check. So the sooner you file, the quicker you'll get paid. A delay in filing will mean a delay in collecting unemployment benefits.

Pension Benefits

With a layoff you want to know how your pension benefits are affected. Knowing your layoff rights can help you protect yourself and your family until you are employed again.

The Employee Benefits Security Administration of the Department of Labor is responsible for administering the Employee Retirement Security Act which cover most private sector pension plans. You can find out more at ERISA

Final Pay

  • Final pay laws vary from state to state. However the norm is that these laws require the employer to issue the final paycheck immediately or relatively soon after employment ends.
  • Layoff rights under state final pay laws entitle the employee to be paid on the same day the employment ends, or within a period of 30 days or by the next regularly-scheduled payday.
  • Final pay includes wages employers owe employees up through their last day of work, plus any overtime, bonuses, commissions, expense reimbursements and accumulated vacation pay if appropriate.
  • However, termination benefits such as bonuses and accrued vacation pay may be subject to specific company policies.
  • Final pay typically does not include accumulated sick leave by law. However some employers pay it anyway as a means of controlling abuse of sick days.
  • Final pay might not include severance pay for a layoff. Employers are not obliged by law to issue severance pay, but some do so as part of their company employment contract or separation agreement.

Severance Pay

Severance pay is money that the employee receives in addition to salary and other monies owed by the employer when the employment ends after a layoff.

  • A severance package is usually severance pay combined with benefits such as extended health insurance benefits.
  • It is not compulsory for a company to provide severance pay for a layoff unless there is a collective bargaining agreement in place or a written contract or agreement that entitles an employee to severance pay as part of the layoff rights.
  • Severance packages or pay are normally based on length of service and the current reimbursement of the employee. Usually the employees must sign a separation or severance agreement in order to receive severance pay.
  • The agreement typically details the terms of the layoff and a release clause that prevents the employee from taking legal action against the former employer.
  • If there is no other contract or agreement with regard to layoffs and severance pay the employer usually has the right to request that a severance agreement be signed before the employee may receive severance payment.
  • However the employer is not allowed to force the employee to sign a severance agreement by threatening to withhold money already earned by the employee such as wages.

Access to Resources and Services

Every state has a One Stop Career Center that is open to all residents and caters to employees who have been laid off or expect to be laid off from their jobs.

The One-Stop system provides a number of services from resume preparation to getting one-on-one career counseling, gaining access to training services, job search assistance and supportive services.

Find out the first steps to take in Surviving a Layoff

Are employers required to give notice of a layoff?

The WARN Act is a U.S. labor law which requires employers to give 60 days notice of plant closings and mass layoffs of employees. Find out more about the WARN Act and if it applies to your situation.

In layoff situations that are not covered by the WARN Act the employer is not required by law to give any notice.

Notification regulations may vary by state so always check with your state U.S. Department of Labor.

How to handle a layoff


Lay Off Tips and Advice


How to Survive a Layoff

Job Search Tips

Useful tips for finding jobs online

Disclaimer - The information provided for Layoff Rights is for guidance only and is not intended to be legal advice.

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