Whether you quit or lose your job through a termination or layoff, there are certain rights you have before you leave. You may be entitled to a severance package, final paycheck, health insurance, or unemployment insurance (better known as unemployment benefits).

Contract Rights

Some employees who are hired also have individual contracts with their employers. The contract may contain different types of terms and agreements that the employer and employees have agreed to when the employment term has begun.

Many employees also have contract rights that are covered by a union or are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, which gives the employee certain rights if their employment was terminated.

Severance Package

Severance packages are not required by law, yet many employers offer benefits to employees who lose their job. Severance packages are often created in written contracts and employee handbooks, but can also be created by oral promises or a history of paying severances to other employees in your position. If your employer promised you a severance, they may be legally obligated to give it to you.  

Final Paycheck

Many states have laws that dictate when an employee must receive their final paycheck. Some of these laws also specifiy whether your unused vacation pay must be included. For example, in Colorado employees must be given their final paycheck immediately if they are terminated or laid off but on the next payday if they quit. In California, terminated and laid-off employees must receive their final paychecks immediately, but employees who quit might have to wait for up to 72 hours. 

Health Insurance

COBRA and similar state laws provide for health insurance continuation when an employee quits, is laid off or is fired for any reason other than gross misconduct. Under COBRA, employers with 20 or more employees must offer them the option of continuing to be covered by the company’s group health insurance plan for a specific period after employment ends. The worker must pay the full cost of this coverage and family coverage is also included.

Statutory Rights

There are many statutory rights that are provided under federal and state law. Many state and federal laws require that employers provide unemployment benefits such as insurance, advance notification prior to the termination of employment, and advance notification in situations where there is a closing of the company or substantial lay-offs. Federal and state laws also provide anti-discrimination laws that the employer must follow.

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment Insurance may provide some financial help if you lose your job, temporarily or permanently. Benefits will be less than your former pay, and last only for a limited time, usually about 26 weeks. Also, not all out-of-work individuals are entitled to unemployment benefits. You will be eligible only if you lose your job through no fault of your own.

Should I Contact an Employment Attorney?

Losing a job is always a difficult time. There are benefits designed to ease the impact and make it a little easier. Employees can learn about the rights that they have by contacting the human resources department of the particular company. An employment attorney can help explain the law and assert your rights to ensure you receive all the benefits you are entitled to.