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Fired? Don’t go quietly

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
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 Lawyers.com, 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 Lawyers.com."

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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52 Comments
Gordon White
March 15, 2014 at 11:32 am

Went to night school for 12 years at Rochester Institute of Technology. Got my degree in business management. Immediately got a 15 cent / hour pay cut! Later told Simplex Time Recorder I was tired of pimping for Simplex. Got fired.

George Bullock
March 11, 2014 at 12:00 am

TOTALLY PRO UNION ;If it were not for Unions every hourly emeployee would be working 12 hour days at $1.00/ hr ! ! !

Jane doe
March 05, 2014 at 8:44 pm

I work for a private home health care company that used the old "work force reduction due to sequestration as a result of the Affordable Care Act". They sat a coworker down with a piece of paper with names of all staff age 60 and over and told her she was selected to go. They told her it had nothing to do with her performance and as long as she did not challenge them with an age discrimination lawsuit they would give her 3 mos. Severence pay. She needed the money desparetly so shesigne their stupid agreement! Now Iam doing my job, her job plus more. I am 60 and I think they are trying to get me to quit. I had a 49% increase in chart audit requests yr to yr in just one division. I was told not to compare the years and also informed that everyone was busy! My famous saying " it is what it is!"

Kirby
February 22, 2014 at 10:28 am

One of the most naive, uninformed, worthless articles ever....how about just working and negotiating a graceful, fair, exit and moving on. I would truly hate to employee the author with an attitude and outlook represented here. How is that freelance writing thing working out ?

Ricky
February 15, 2014 at 8:40 am

I got 4/6 of these items when they fired me for using the internet for work and some personal things. The bottom line was I was too old and and made too much money!

Bobo
February 04, 2014 at 2:04 pm

For most companies, if they offer you severance they make you sign a statement saying you won't sue or challenge anything, etc, before they pay you the severance.
So the writer can say you should try & negotiate this stuff, but big companies have policies about what they'll pay, you can threaten them all you want, but then you get no severance unless you pay.
Most people are going to need that severance vs. spending years with a lawyer threatening to sue where you get nothing. I the meantime you may lose your house, etc, in this economy.

Dave Seavy
February 02, 2014 at 11:56 pm

I suppose all the advice sounds good until you stop to consider one important fact: most employment is at-will. In other words, the employer has the right to terminate you without cause. I do agree you shouldn't agree to resign unless you've done something extremely stupid, such as stealing from the company. Other than that, make them fire you so you can at least apply for unemployment. If you quit you could qualify if you can prove it was a hostile working environment, but that's very rare. The bit about severance is a little over the top. If you make $2000/mo (amount just for the sake of argument)and you've been there 10 years, it's not likely you'll be handed a check for $20,000.

DT
January 28, 2014 at 9:28 pm

FIRED,BECAUSE I HAVE I GOT CANCER,THEY SAY I WAS CHEATING THE SYSTEMS.

Big Balls
January 22, 2014 at 11:43 pm

Go for the jugular!! We are all slaves to a business!!

bp
January 21, 2014 at 3:13 pm

The article is hopelessly naive, except, she's right. You will almost certainly fail to get anything you want in this situation even with a lawyer and will be mired in the ickiness of maintaining the unhealthy contact. But don't make it any easier for an employer to fire you unjustly. Don't go quietly unless you know you deserve it.

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