Laid Off vs. Fired: The Differences and How to Bounce Back

First, by law, you need to immediately remunerate a terminated employee for any unused vacation or personal time, all regular and overtime hours worked, and previously unpaid, earned bonuses and any other earned pay.

When you fire an employee, even if he or she has only been with you for 90 days or less, for any just cause short of confiscating the queen’s jewels, you should pay at least some severance. It is the decent thing to do, remaining employees expect you to have done it, and it makes you look better in the worst of situations. It also decreases your risk of a lawsuit.

Generally in the U.S., employers are not required to pay severance or provide advance notice of closings or layoffs. However, one exception is the WARN Act. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) protects workers, their families, and communities by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide notification 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs.

In New York, your employer is not required by law to provide you with a severance package, nor are there any rules for what a severance package should include.

Bouncing Back From Getting Let Go

While there are differences between getting laid off vs. fired, sudden job loss is traumatic for anyone. Even if a layoff was announced (or you saw your termination coming), it’s still a difficult thing to deal with. Work plays such an important role in our identity that job loss can be a real blow to our self-.

It’s normal to stay angry for a while and lick your wounds. But don’t do it forever. The sooner you start your job search, the sooner you’ll get a new job. No one likes talking about job loss, but now is a great time to tap into your network to find new opportunities in your current field, or maybe in a new one.

If you’re not sure what comes next, read about handling employment gaps on your resume, or find some advice on how to explain job loss during an interview. Or, get inspired by success stories of people who rebounded after job loss. And, if after all that you’re still feeling lost, consider speaking with one of our career coaches for more guidance.

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How to Explain Getting Fired

When you’re fired, you’ll want to follow a similar course of action. Explain what happened truthfully and honestly. Then explain what you learned from the experience. This can be the hard part. Admitting you were fired is never easy. But, if you treat it as a chance to start over and to learn from your mistakes, you’re turning a negative into a positive.

Once again, a short and simple answer is best. If you start sharing every detail about what happened, you risk veering into the negative, and you may end up sounding like a jerk who deserved to get fired.

Explain that you were fired, why you were fired, and what you learned. “Unfortunately, I was let go from the job. I think it was a bad match from the start because I didn’t really have the right skills to succeed in that job. But I didn’t realize it until it was too late, and no amount of training or practice helped make up for the deficit. That’s why I’m looking at this job. It’s a better match for my existing skills.”

This is a short yet honest answer that explains what happens and describes what you learned. You even mention what you tried to do to correct the situation, and you take responsibility for what happened.

Hopefully, your interviewer will note that you were upfront and honest about the situation and that you have learned from the experience. Growth in the face of failure is something most employers want to see in their employees, along with admitting their mistakes.

What you should never do in an interview is claim you were laid off when you were fired. As we’ve outlined, there is a huge difference between the two. And, if the company you’re interviewing with calls your previous employer to confirm you were laid off when you weren’t, well, you’re probably not getting hired.

When You’re Fired: The Specifics

Generally speaking, employees who are fired are not offered a severance package—particularly when they are fired for misconduct. However, some fired employees are offered a severance package in the hope that they will “go away” after receiving the package.

Just like the layoff severance package, you will likely have to sign a non-disparagement and non-compete agreement similar to if you were laid off. And, in many cases, accepting the severance package also means that you give up your right to sue for unlawful termination.

Suing for unlawful termination is different than your right to unemployment benefits. In some states, you cannot sign away your right to unemployment benefits no matter how you lose your job. But, if you’re fired, you may not be entitled to receive unemployment benefits.

If you are fired “for cause,” the employer does not have to pay you unemployment benefits. When you’re fired for cause, the employer is claiming there is a valid reason why they fired you, and that reason is due to your behavior. While you can fight for unemployment benefits, there is no guarantee you will win.

During an exit interview, your employer should tell you if you’re being fired for cause or not. If you’re not fired for cause, there is a good chance you’ll be able to collect unemployment benefits. However, your employer should let you know either way so you can decide how to proceed.

Severance Packages: If you Get Fired by Kahane Law Office


Is it better to quit or be fired?

Resigning from a job has some advantages worth considering. One of the biggest perks is that it looks better on your resume than being fired. If you voluntarily leave a job, you tend to have greater control over your narrative. You can showcase your departure in a more positive light to prospective employers.

What do you get when you get fired?

Fortunately, terminated employees do have certain rights. In addition to a final paycheck, employees could be entitled to things like continued health insurance coverage, extended benefits, severance pay, and unemployment compensation.

How do you negotiate severance pay when fired?

How to negotiate your severance package
  1. Understand the components of a severance package. …
  2. Wait before signing paperwork. …
  3. Read everything carefully. …
  4. Get an expert opinion. …
  5. Understand your priorities. …
  6. Negotiate for more than money. …
  7. Decide on a reasonable request. …
  8. Leverage your success.

What triggers severance?

Severance pay is often granted to employees upon termination of employment. It is usually based on length of employment for which an employee is eligible upon termination. There is no requirement in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for severance pay.

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