What do I do if I’ve been fired or laid off?

Have you just lost your job and are wondering what to do next?  The steps you take right after you’ve lost your job can have a huge impact on the severance or settlement you wind up getting.

In this blog, we go over exactly what to do  – and what not to do – in the moments and hours after your employment ends.

Step #1: Don’t sign anything before talking with a lawyer

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to not do anything. The first two steps in our list are two things you should not do when you’ve lost your job.

The first don’t: don’t sign anything before talking to a lawyer, especially if you’re a long-term employee or an older employee.  Employers will often ask you to sign a release in order to get severance.  Signing a release basically means that you can’t sue your employer to get the money they may owe you. To get you to sign a release, an employer might tell you that they’re paying you more than what you’re owed, or they’ll put a tight time limit on the offer. Sometimes they’ll say you won’t get anything at all until you sign the release.

If you do sign a release, you could be giving up a significant amount of money – money you’d otherwise be owed if you went to court or a Tribunal or negotiated a settlement with the help of a lawyer.

A downside to following this advice is that an offer that’s on the table might get taken off the table if you wait too long to sign it.  If asked, however, most employers will give you the time you need to see a lawyer before agreeing to any settlement or signing a release.

Are you feeling pressured to sign a settlement because you’re worried about making it financially in the short term without a job or a settlement?  Keep in mind that, no matter what an employer may say, the employer must pay you any amounts owing under employment standards legislation. And that’s whether or not you sign a release. You may also qualify for employment insurance benefits to help you get you through to your next job.

Step #2: Don’t talk about the termination of your employment

Often getting fired or laid off is a total shock.  So it’s natural to want to talk to other people about what’s happened – either to blow off steam or to help make some sense of it.

Until you speak with a lawyer, however, we recommend not talking about the details of your case with anyone but your immediate family and financial or legal advisors.  And definitely don’t talk to your coworkers about what’s happened – especially by email or on social media.

The reason for this is that if you’ve been wrongfully dismissed, it’s likely that an important part of the settlement for your employer will be you signing a non-disparagement clause or confidentiality agreement.  These things can protect the employer from damage to their reputation, or other from workers knowing the details of any settlement you agree to. These things have value to the employer. And if you talk to other people before settling with your employer, these things might lose their value – which could result in you getting less a settlement.

Another reason for you not to talk to co-workers is that most claims are resolved through settlement negotiations with the employer. If you’ve been wrongfully dismissed, and you’re talking to other employees about it, your employer probably won’t like it – which won’t help with those settlement discussions!

Step #3: Apply for employment insurance

If you’ve just lost your job, odds are you’ve also lost a huge part of your income. Because of this, you should apply immediately for employment insurance (“EI”) benefits.

Even if your employer’s saying they fired you for misconduct, there’s probably a good chance you may still qualify for employment insurance benefits.  Your former employer isn’t the one to decide whether it was justified to fire you for misconduct – and showing they were justified in firing you for misconduct is often difficult for employers to do.  And if you get a decision you don’t agree with on this issue, you can always appeal.

So apply for EI benefits, and apply quickly.

Step #4: Contact a lawyer

Talk to a lawyer about how you lost your job and ask the lawyer what you might be entitled to.  If you’re a long-term employee or an older employee, it’s especially important to contact a lawyer. Put bluntly, you could be entitled to a lot of money.

A lawyer can give you a good idea about the odds of recovering something from court or a tribunal, and what you’re likely owed if your case is successful.  A lawyer can also set out clear, informed options about what to do next. For example, sometimes a demand letter sent to the employer, setting out the facts of your case and the law, is enough to start serious discussions about a good settlement for you.

If you do decide to consult a lawyer, there are steps you can take to get the most value out of that consultation. You can read more about that in our blog entitled, “Top 3 Ways to get the Most out of your Lawyer.” 

DISCLAIMER: The content of this article, and this website generally, is not intended as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as legal advice.  To provide legal advice on your problem, a lawyer must first understand your specific situation.

We offer free half-hour consultations in person at our Coquitlam office or virtually via software. To book a consultation, please give us a call toll-free 1 (877) 708-8350 or locally (604) 475-0041. You can also book your free consultation online here.