26 Jun You Were Just Laid Off – Now What?
By Justine Johnson, Carbert Waite LLP
You were just laid off. You are shocked and overwhelmed. You know you have rights and you are unsure if you were treated fairly by your former employer but you do not know what to do next. A helpful first step is to schedule an appointment with an employment lawyer who can explain your rights and advise if you have been treated fairly.
In order to maximize the value of your time with this lawyer, you should send him or her certain documents in advance of your appointment and you should be prepared to answer questions about your circumstances. What follows is a guide that will help you prepare for your appointment.
What documents should you send your lawyer in advance?
1. The paperwork that you received when you were laid off.
Your lawyer will want to review the paperwork you received when you were laid off. If you do not have a copy of this paperwork, you can request it from your former employer. If you did not receive any paperwork or you do not have a copy of it in your initial appointment, your lawyer will likely ask you specific questions about the circumstances of your layoff and will want you to obtain a copy of this paperwork if it exists. Your lawyer may be able to assist you in obtaining this paperwork if you are uncomfortable approaching your former employer or if any other difficulties arise.
2. Your offer of employment or written employment contract.
Your lawyer will want to review your offer of employment or written employment contract because it sets out the terms of your employment relationship with your former employer. It typically includes your start date, your job title, the name and job title of the person you report to, your compensation and other information regarding your employment.
If you do not have a copy of your offer of employment or written employment contract, you can request it from your former employer. Of course, as with other document requests, your lawyer can assist or act on your behalf if you would prefer. If you never received an offer of employment or written employment contract or you do not have a copy of it in your initial appointment, your lawyer will likely ask you specific questions about the terms of your employment and will want you to obtain a copy of this documentation if it exists.
If you have more than one offer of employment or written employment contract, you should send your lawyer your first and your most recent offers of employment or written employment contracts.
3. Any other employment documentation that you have questions about
An employment lawyer is knowledgeable about a variety of topics including human rights, benefits and contractual issues. If you have any questions about any other issues related to your employment, it will be helpful if you send your lawyer any documentation which relates to your specific inquiry.
What questions will you be asked?
To fully understand your specific circumstances, your employment lawyer will ask you several questions regarding your background, your most recent employment and the circumstances you are facing in your job search. These questions will likely not be difficult to answer in most cases but it will be helpful if you have turned your mind to them before the appointment.
- What is your occupation?
- How did you come to work for your former employer? Did you simply apply for the job? Or were you enticed to leave another job or city?
- When did you start working for your former employer?
- When were you provided notice of your layoff?
- What was your job title at the time of your layoff?
- What were your duties and responsibilities in this role?
- What job title did you report to in this role?
- What was your age?
- Did you receive a positive performance review, promotion, raise or any other compensation or recognition for good performance in the year prior to your layoff?
- Did you receive a negative performance review or a warning in year prior to your layoff?
- How many years of experience did you have in your occupation at the time of your layoff?
- How many years of education did you have at the time of your layoff?
- What did your total annual compensation include at the time of your layoff?Your total compensation includes all of the compensation and benefits that you received from your former employer. Depending on your situation, this might include your base salary, regular hourly wage, overtime hourly wage, commissions, benefits (health, dental, short term disability, long term disability, insurance, pension, health spending account etc.), allowances, training, memberships and other forms of compensation including long term and short incentives (bonuses, stock options, performance share units, restricted share units, profit sharing etc.).
- Do you have an illness or disability that might make it difficult for you to find another job?
- Will it be difficult for you to find a comparable job without relocating given the current economic conditions in your industry?
What should you expect?
In your appointment, your lawyer will help you tell your story and assess your situation. He or she will then explain how the law applies to you and give you advice about what to do. Depending on your situation, this advice might include:
- Accepting the settlement your former employer has offered you
- Attempting to negotiate a settlement or better settlement with your former employer
- Making a complaint against your former employer under federal or provincial legislation
- Starting a civil lawsuit against your former employer
With the appropriate documents and information, your lawyer should be able to answer your questions, and you should leave your appointment with a clear understanding of your legal rights and what your options are going forward.