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What if You Need to Leave Your Job?

There comes a time when, either by choice or not, you will leave your job. You should take as much care and preparation into leaving your position as you put into taking it.

Paperwork for Leaving Your Job

Box of desk contentsDuring your transition out of a job, you likely will have to complete an exit interview and fill out exit paperwork. Common documents include:

  • Equipment return. You might need to sign documentation that you returned items such as laptops, cellphones and any other company property you used to perform your job.
  • Exit interview questionnaire. This often will include questions regarding your experience in the company’s work environment. If you are being fired or laid off, you are not obligated to complete this questionnaire. 
  • Confirmation of cause for termination. Some employers will want you to sign a form saying you agree with the reasoning behind your termination. If you disagree, you do not have to sign. You either can refuse or calmly suggest different wording that you feel more accurately describes your reason for leaving.

In addition to the exit interview, your human resources department should provide you with the following paperwork:

  • Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) health benefits. The employer’s human resources department must provide the paperwork if you are eligible for COBRA health benefits (which extends your health insurance for a time after you leave a job, provided that you pay the full cost of coverage). You can find information about COBRA eligibility at the U. S. Department of Labor website
  • Retirement benefits. Your human resources department also is responsible for providing paperwork about options for continuing your employer retirement savings account or transferring the balance to another employer’s retirement plan (or a private investment fund such as an IRA).
  • Human Resource Information System (HRIS) access. If your company uses software to manage human resources activities (especially those related to pay), you might need continued access to the company’s HRIS program. Some companies will allow you to continue using the same username and password while limiting your access, but others companies might provide you with separate login information once you leave the job.

I Just Got Fired, Now What?

TrashcanLosing your job is traumatic, but it is best to stay cool and collected. While you don’t have to sign anything that would compromise your rights, you should remain polite throughout the process. Here’s why:

  • You likely have some negotiating left to do with your severance package.
  • Your former employer will submit paperwork for your unemployment benefits (if applicable).
  • If you are constructive and open to suggestions for improvement, you might delay or even prevent a job loss.
  • Depending on the reason for your departure, you may have an opportunity to work for the same company again in the future.
  • You may work with the same people again at a different company further down the line.

SAM tips

If you feel that you have been wrongfully fired due to discrimination, you must file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days. Note that there is a different procedure for federal employees.

How Severance Works 

Justice scaleSeverance is a compensation package for terminated employees. The amount of severance a company offers will vary by position and employee. For example, a chief executive may get millions in severance pay, while someone holding a lower-level position may get a month or two in pay, or nothing at all.

If you are 40 or older and you are offered a severance package, you are allowed 21 days to look it over. Because you are at a time in your life when it can be harder to find work, you might use this grace period to hire a lawyer to review the options. 

An initial consultation with a lawyer will cost you some money, but it could help you get significantly more during severance negotiations. In some cases, you might be able to include legal fees in your new severance package.

You might consider hiring a lawyer to help negotiate your severance package if:

  • You feel the reason for termination was not substantiated.
  • You feel the severance package is inadequate for the value you provided to the company.
  • You believe your employer violated labor laws.
  • You are asked to sign a separation agreement that bars you from suing the company. This is your opportunity to negotiate. You could negotiate extension of health insurance or other benefits, or ask for more money. Even if you don’t intend to sue, you may want to get a lawyer to help you with this step.
SAM tips

If you are 40 or older, your right to work and receive equal treatment is covered under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Unemployment Insurance 

Umbrella stopping rainWhen you become unemployed through no fault of your own, you should apply for unemployment benefits as soon as possible. While employment qualifications and benefits vary from state to state, here is the general process:

  1. You fill out either a paper or online application through your state unemployment insurance program.
  2. The state unemployment insurance program requests paperwork from your employer.
  3. Once the paperwork is supplied, the unemployment program either approves or denies your application.
  4. If you are denied, you will be provided with instructions on how to appeal, should you wish to do so.

If you are approved, you will start receiving checks for your stated benefit amount by the date specified by your state unemployment insurance program. The amount of your benefit check will be calculated differently depending on your state. 

You will have to prove that you are looking, or are available, for work according to your state’s standards in order to stay eligible and continue receiving checks.

If you need extra guidance going through the unemployment process, you can explore CareerOneStop’s Unemployment hub.

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