You’ve just been fired, or you suspect you’re about to be fired. And you think that your termination may be for an illegal reason (e.g., discrimination, retaliation, blowing the whistle). Now what?
1. Do Not Quit / Do Not Sign Anything. Most workers who suspect termination is imminent often believe it is better to quit than be fired. But depending on the circumstances, that might not be true. Voluntarily leaving your position before your employer takes any adverse employment action against you (e.g., a termination), could weaken your ability to make an employment claim. Often it is wiser to continue to do your job well, which means that your employer will have to terminate you to make you leave. However, there could be extenuating circumstances that would warrant a different decision. If you are tempted to quit your job, it would be wise to contact an employment attorney before quitting to discuss your particular situation and your options.
At your termination meeting, your employer may present you with a document called a separation or severance agreement, potentially with an offer of some amount of money. Again, the wise thing to do is to consult with an attorney before signing anything. If you signed this document already and are having second thoughts, you should immediately contact an employment attorney to review the agreement on your behalf. If you act quickly enough, you may be able to rescind your agreement.
2. Do Apply for Unemployment. Unemployment programs provide money and other benefits to eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own and meet certain other eligibility requirements. For more information on how to apply for benefits, visit: uimn.org.
3. Do Request Your Personnel File. Minnesota law allows you to request a copy of your personnel file. Make this request to your employer in writing. Your employer must give you a copy of your personnel file within seven working days after the receipt of the request for the personnel file, if it is located in Minnesota, or no later than 14 working days, if located outside of Minnesota.
Your employer must provide you with a written reason for your termination within ten working days following the receipt of the request. Note, however, that there may be situations where it is better not to request this. After consulting with an attorney, and it is determined that you will request your truthful reason for termination, it must be done within 15 working days following your termination.
4. Do Consider Health Insurance/COBRA Continuation. COBRA stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985. COBRA continuation coverage may allow you to temporarily remain on your employer’s group health insurance plan.
It may also be worth your while to explore MinnesotaCare, which is a state healthcare program for children and adults who do not have access to an affordable health care option. For more information on MinnesotaCare, visit www.mnsure.org.
5. Do Talk to a Lawyer. There may be other steps you should take before and after your termination. Even if your termination seems legitimate, non-retaliatory, or non-discriminatory, it makes sense to reach out to an experienced employment law firm to talk through the facts and circumstances of your employment and termination. A lawyer who is experienced in working with employees may be able to see illegal conduct where it is not obvious to you. Employers are often experienced at covering their tracks, so it is crucial that you work with an attorney who is equally experienced in uncovering those tracks.
Law employment attorney Blaine Balow has an excellent record of recovery for his clients. However, all cases are judged on their individual facts, and there is no guarantee of success. He is part of an elite group of 2.5% of Minnesota attorneys who are under the age of 40 or have practiced law less than ten years to be selected to the Super Lawyers list as a “Rising Star.”