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Fired? Don’t go quietly

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Sunday, September 15, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

You're a few years away from retirement and you fear that you're about to be laid off or fired from your job -- ruining all your retirement planning. Attorney Larry Bodine, editor-in-chief of, says, don't go quietly -- "Negotiate."

Bodine believes that an age discrimination claim can be your most powerful bargaining chip. "If you can see any reason that you are being laid off because of your age -- age discrimination starts at age 40, and if workers younger than 40 are being spared -- this gives you leverage. No company wants lawsuits brought by employees."

Bodine acknowledges that actually filing an age discrimination suit is an unrealistic option for many. "If you file a claim, you'll be in court for several years," he says. And the odds of actually winning aren't great. But Bodine thinks that the threat will make many employers nervous enough to ease your separation from the company.

Here are six things he says you can negotiate for and have a reasonably good chance of getting:

Severance. At least a month of pay for every year that you have worked for the company.

Paid COBRA. The federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act guarantees that you can buy the health insurance your company offers for a maximum of 18 months. Ask the company to pay for the insurance for the whole 18 months.

Accrued bonus. If you were expecting a bonus at the end of the year, ask for it early.

Unused vacation and personal leave. Get cash instead of days off.

No disputing unemployment insurance. You get to collect unemployment and they agree to tell the state it's deserved.

Mutual goodwill. You promise not to say anything bad about the company or about anyone who works there to professional organizations or on social media if they will return the favor. Insist that the agreement has to be company-wide, even though it's tough for them to guarantee it. That's still more reason for the company to help you leave under the best possible circumstances. "This is especially effective if you are prominent in your industry. Companies hate to terminate people who are leaders in trade associations or who run online discussion groups," Bodine says.

If the company asks you to sign a statement that says that you won't sue, Bodine believes you need to hire a lawyer to review the agreement. You'll need a plaintiff's employment attorney. There aren't an abundance of lawyers with this specialty, "but you can find one if you do your homework," Bodine insists. "Check"

And whatever you do, no matter how frustrated you are, don't quit. "If you quit, you extinguish all of your rights," Bodine says. "If it comes down to it, make them fire you."

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Dave K.
August 20, 2014 at 5:08 pm

It's important to ask for and receive a Service Letter from your Ex employer which states the type of work you performed, the length of time worked, and the reason for your employment ending. Most states have statutes that make this a right for the ex employee. It acts to pin them down on a reason for firing you, and helps if your going to apply for unemployment benefits.

August 12, 2014 at 11:00 pm

At least one month pay for every year worked, seriously?

Dave P
August 12, 2014 at 10:39 pm

Never ever quit. They can have your job when they pry it from your cold dead fingers.

QA Man
August 07, 2014 at 12:41 am

I had a similar experience with a fairly new ruthless manager similar to Jim's. My previous job performance reviews were always above satisfactory or exceeds expectations until he took over. After reducing my areas of responsibility and authority, his reviews were suddenly "needs improvement" without details or suggestions.

At 57 and after 33 years in the trenches and moving up the ranks to upper management levels, a cross-section group of us old-timers were laid off "due to a re-structuring." The company also included a token few "younger" people in the group so we couldn't claim age discrimination...

Those of us whose combined age and years of service equaled or exceeded 65 had a "choice" of early retirement or permanent lay-off.

C Lucas
July 18, 2014 at 8:38 pm

I am 55 1/2 years old and in the last couple months my relatively new boss I am considered inadequate. My mistakes were started in an informal warning and now a formal warning. It looks like I will be fired after 20 years. I see new furniture and younger people moving in and I am taking up space that could be used for the greater good. I wanted a job I could feel comfortable with and be appreciated for but I was wrong. I feel stressed and tired of it now. I am waiting because I dont want to quit. These new age companies with all the money want high tech communicative individuals while we just try to keep up!

Alan Wells
April 18, 2014 at 8:17 am

Let go at 59 with about 35 other old people. Young replacements stayed and more were hired in after a couple months. As the job was structured as a contract, with the contract company leaving and being replaced by another who hired it's preference from the existing pool, none of these options were available. Our employment law is broken. Of course all our law is broken.

April 10, 2014 at 11:18 am

My last job was in a Nursing Home as a Licensed Nurse. My boss did not like me and was trying to get rid of me by writing me up for no good reason. The final blow was calling the state to report that I was abusing a patient! The investigation from the state prove that I did not do anything wrong except following Doctor's orders. This put me in a extreme difficult situation and I had to quit.
Now I can't apply for another job because I can't get a good reference from my former employer.

March 24, 2014 at 7:54 pm

I worked for 30 years for EDS in the UK. I had always exceeded expectations in performance reviews, always delivered the numbers etc. However, I ended up working for a ruthless boss who frankly took a strong, perhaps intense dislike for me. I refused to become one of the lads, one of his drinking buddies, and over a period of 2 years or so was very much isolated. Even at meetings he was openly hostile. In the end I took early retirement, and not on very good terms. It was just uncomfortable coming into the office, people knew he disliked me and were scared to be seen conversing with me. In the end, he came to me and suggested I was getting long in the tooth for the job and I should consider taking early retirement, which of course I felt I had to do. I suspect my particular company was a poor example of how large companies act, but unfortuneatly, the culture was bullying and some senior management carried this to extremes. In retrospect, I should have hung on, I actually liked my job, the people I worked with, the customers and as I have said, I did my job very well. Pity in retrospect that I allowed a bully to effectively drive me out.

March 18, 2014 at 5:10 pm

All of the lawful, effective releases that apply to the waiver of a right to sue under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) include a seven (7) day period to retract/void the agreement. Seek professional advice within that seven day period, if not before.

Reductions In Force (RIF) have to be neutral in the selection mechanism and WARN Act notices may apply. Again, seek professional advice.

Layoffs of individuals should follow a LIFO (Last In First Out) seniority system. If a RIF or layoff isn't neutral then the basis for the selection may be impermissible and, once again, seek professional advice.

All of these causes of action have very short time limits - either 180 days or 300 days to file with the EEOC or a state agency with a workshare agreement with the EEOC. Act quickly.

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