Layoffs Are Running Rampant, Here Are The Worker Rights You Need To Know About

As a laid-off employee, you may have a right to severance payment, unemployment, and other protections.

By Wendy Hernandez | Published

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The COVID-19 pandemic, even some three years later, has had a significant and lasting impact on the global economy, with one of the negative consequences being that more people have lost their jobs. Companies have been forced to downsize or close outright, displacing millions of workers. If you are one of the unfortunate employees who have been affected by recent layoffs, it’s critical to be familiar with workers’ rights. Here are a few things to bear in mind.

Severance Payment

Workers’ rights should be universal but unfortunately, they are not. If you find yourself among the slew of employees caught up in the recent layoffs, and unless you have a contract that stipulates it, severance pay (money given to a discharged employee by his or her company) is at the discretion of the company.

But if your company has more than 100 employees and intends to lay off at least 50 individuals, the federal W.A.R.N. Act compels it to provide employees with at least 60 days’ notice of upcoming layoffs. If it doesn’t do that, the law requires it to compensate you for up to 60 days after the layoff.

If you do receive severance money, carefully read the terms. Some companies may request that you sign a waiver agreeing not to sue them for any reason relating to your job. If you are unsure about signing such a release, you should consult an employment lawyer before receiving the severance compensation.

Will you forfeit your severance pay when you start working again? According to a recent CNN article, there are a few ways your severance can potentially end if you start working again: “Many employers may stop your severance payments if the company rehires you for a new position.” Additionally, some employers may decide to cut your severance pay if you get a new job or start freelancing for other people, and your new source of income is less than what you used to be paid.

Unemployment Compensation

You may be eligible for unemployment compensation if you have been laid off. These benefits give you a temporary source of income to assist you in meeting your living expenses while you look for a new career.

Different states have different rules about who can get unemployment benefits, but in general, you need to have worked a certain number of hours or made a certain amount of money during a certain time period. You must also actively seek jobs and report your job search activity to the unemployment office.

COBRA Protection Insurance

If you have health insurance through your work, you may be eligible for COBRA coverage.

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA, allows you to keep your employer-provided health insurance after you leave your job for a set period of time.

COBRA requires you to pay the full cost of your health insurance premiums, which can be costly. Still, it is often less expensive than buying health insurance for yourself on the open market. You’ll have 60 days to decide if you want to keep your COBRA coverage, so think carefully about your options.

Protection from Discrimination

If you think you were fired because of your race, gender, age, or other protected characteristic, you may be able to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC investigates workplace discrimination cases and may be able to assist you in obtaining monetary or another redress.

You must file your complaint within a certain amount of time. Usually, you have 180 days after the alleged wrongdoing to file your complaint. You’ll also need proof to back up your claim, so keep track of any instances of prejudice that you witnessed or experienced.

Layoffs are never easy, but knowing workers’ rights as an employee will help you get through this trying time. Go over your employment contract and the company’s policies thoroughly, and if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to consult with an employment lawyer.