what to do after you get fired

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If you just got fired, there are a bunch of things you should do immediately, starting with not freaking out. Then:  Don’t sign a severance agreement immediately, try to negotiate how your departure will be described to others, set up a bunch of health care appointments before the end of the month, and all the other steps that I describe over at U.S. News & World Report today. You can read it here.

{ 81 comments… read them below }

  1. ChristineH

    Really wish I’d done #4 when I was laid off (I know that’s not a firing, but the circumstances were such that I wouldn’t say it was your run-of-the-mill layoff).

  2. Kelly O

    When my husband was let go last August, it was done the last day of the month, and he had unbelievable pressure to “hurry up” and get his severance agreement back to them. Unfortunately because of the timing, we did not have the “extra” time on his insurance either. (As a matter of fact, they actually cut it off that day, and we didn’t know it, so we wound up having to go back and pay our pediatrician a few hundred dollars, since the baby got two ear infections that month.)

    If you are facing this, do not let anyone push you into signing something without reading it thoroughly first. Many of the caveats won’t apply to him, especially those related to working for our competitors, but if he’d not read it thoroughly, we would not have realized he couldn’t have taken a certain position even if it had been offered to him before he took his next job. (Which would have meant we had to pay back all the severance.)

  3. Lived and Learned

    Coming back after a maternity leave , having worked 14 years for a certain reatiler, I was told that I “no longer” had a job. I was not given a severance, nor was I paid for any vaction time (2 weeks), sick time (2 days) that I still had remaining. (“Those are benefits which we just now took away.”) The HR rep told me to stop looking so upset because “It’s just business!”. She didn’t mention unemployment benefits, and I know it sounds really ridiculous, but filing never even occured to me. Three weeks later, I ended up taking a job at half the salary I had been earning. This totally messed uo my financial situation and many years later, I still feel as though I am playing catch-up.

    1. mh_76

      You should look into what your State’s Laws say (or the laws in your province/country/etc) – in my state, the General Laws say that all departing employees have to be paid for any accrued vacation that exists on their last day with the company, regardless of whether/not their separation was voluntary, lay-off, firing, other. Holy thunderstorm Batman! Unrelated, I know, but usually the ones in-city are but a mere flash & whimper & few drops of rain.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I’m guessing you’re in California. Most states don’t require that; CA and a few others (Massachusetts, I think?) are the notable exception!

        1. Richars Wait

          Any idea if Tx requires accrued vacation to be paid when fired, or how I can find out one way or the other?

    2. yvtma4

      My boss is a witch! The last day i worked was the 23rd of september 2012 and that day i was belittled behind the register in front of guests, it was so humiliating. Later that night i told my boss about a spill and i went to clean it and slipped but didnt fall so i hurt my knee. I told her three times and she acted like she didnt hear me. All week i was in pain. By my next shift i had talked to an assistant manager and she said i had to report it. Well i did and now i am not working. What can i do?

      1. Michele

        I worked for this company almost 9 years I had been diagnosed with bipolar disoder some years ago. I had several bosses since that time also this new boss harassed me from time to time mad me cry would say stop crying and talk under her breath. She also told me that I had to work around my work hours for my theraphy i was hit buy another car on the job i wasnt allowed to take off she told me i’m not reliable so dont take off or she will move me to another position. She also made stories up like i wasnt working she seen me someplace else and that was false I checked. She told me when I was sick that I couldnt take off so I went to work sick as a dog and confused because of my medications she said to me once on the phone you dont take off for one thing its always several different things like she was checking and writing up my papers to fire me…well it happened she did fire me the first day back to work I had a doctors note i was in tears because i was at and different spot after 8 years and became afraid so my doctor gave me off I dont have a job she went and got those papers signed the very first day of my medical leave and my insurance will run out I had a union but i never got any call backs from them..i feel they laughed at me knew they wanted me out and would tell everybody i had abipolar disorder..i would like to know if i have any kind of case this girl had it in for me right from the beginning bosses shouldnt beable to hold grudges and get away with it help somebody.

  4. Rin

    My friend got fired, and his insurance ended that day. Also, when he went to file for unemployment benefits, the company had already contested it.

      1. Jamie

        What’s brutal? If you are referring to the insurance issue, it’s usually determined by what part of the policy cycle you’re in when terminated.

        If it’s about pre-contesting UI – that’s pretty standard. A lot of companies have an outside agency handle their UI claims and it’s SOP to notify them when an employee is terminated and whether the UI would be contested (or not) if filed.

      2. Long Time Admin

        If the person was fired with cause, the employer should contest UI.

        24 people got laid off from my company yesterday. They lost their accrued vacation time and are only getting a little bit of insurance coverage. That’s the way things go these days.

    1. Kimberlee

      That’s bizarre. Did the notice saying when insurance was ending come from the employer or from the insurance company? The company might have been lying to bring down their insurance costs (they don’t sound like a nice company).

      1. Rin

        I think his company told him, because he brought it up the day it happened. And, no, they’re not not a nice company.

  5. jmkenrick

    As an addendum to #9 – if you’re not clear on why you’re being fired, I would imagine that it would be helpful to have a discussion about it, as well as reviewing with your former boss how that could have been improved upon.

    My thinking here is that this could be helpful in future interviews. It probably comes off well to explain that, although you were fired, you used that as an opportunity to discuss your weaknesses with your former employeer so you can work on growth (or have a better idea of what will be a better fit in the future). Plus I imagine it would help leave a good impression with your former company.

    This is purely speculation though, as this is not my area of expertise.

    1. AD

      The former manager, if he is smart, will not say a thing.

      Even if she’s not smart, the type of manager who would discuss things with you is likely the type of manager who discussed things with you BEFORE it got to the point where you needed to be fired.

      1. Jamie

        This – beautifully put, btw.

        If it’s too late to save the job, it’s too late for anything except wishing the firee well in future endeavors.

      2. Just Me

        Agreed with AD’s comment.

        I have worked for companies ( one now ) that fire so many people it is a joke. One place fired so many peole you can go to an event ( like a festival of some sort ) and someone undoubtably had worked at the same place…. and got fired as well !
        An employment place once asked me who was the boss and when I told her she just smiled and nodded. She knew the deal.
        I have no idea why I was fired. I had a good review and was never spoken to about any poor performance or anything.
        Within that year at least 6 people ( women ironically) were fired out of the blue.

        I do have a question for AAM or anyone.. how far back to employers check for that type of thing? This was over 12 years ago. I have been steadily employed since then but I am just curious how far back people will check for that type of thing.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          By checking, do you mean calling references? If so, most won’t go that far back if you had another couple of jobs in between, but some are more thorough.

  6. Sandrine

    I would say 11) If you have a professional e-mail adress and they give you some time to gather your things, make sure you save up any important information that may be in there that you could need later.

    (I do realize not everyone might be able to do it and if they shoo you out the door it might be difficult, but it wouldn’t hurt too much to try I guess)

    1. K.

      It’s not a bad idea to back up your files et al. regularly (e.g. once a week), including emails, so if you ARE let go, you have them. An old boss recommended weekly backups as a safety measure “in case your computer crashes,” but it applies to taking stuff with you when you leave too.

      1. Jamie

        Check your company policy on this before assuming you have the right to maintain any files for your own use – especially post-employment.

        This is a huge violation in many companies and if I saw this I’d have a call into our attorney immediately.

        Obviously personal email (family, kid’s schools, etc.) if sent to work email is different – if you don’t want to lose it you should forward that to your personal email account. But company files? That is unethical, imo, and a legally dubious thing to do in most instances.

        1. Sandrine

          I was actually thinking along the lines of personal “stuff” , as in, I don’t know, someone’s adress, something like that.

          Obviously, company stuff equals company stuff that doesn’t leave the company, of course.

          1. Jamie

            Oh, I know what you meant – and it’s a good idea to get your personal stuff if they will let you…just most won’t (see comment below).

            This was in response to K referencing backups and files in regards to taking it with you when you leave.

            1. K.

              You know, I’m probably a bad example because I’m in marketing/PR/communications, so my work is, like, out there – if I’ve written web copy, it’s … on the web, so there’s no expectation of privacy, confidentiality, etc. I have a portfolio of my work, campaigns I’ve put together, print materials I’ve written, etc. If I were an attorney, of course expectations would be different!

        2. Anonymous

          What about being fired without cause? Isn’t that unethical? Take everything you can get your hands on that will help with a wrongful termination lawsuit and anything that was your work that someone else will take credit for after you’re gone.

    2. Jamie

      If someone were to be able to do this, I would say the next person to be fired should be the one who dropped the ball in getting this locked down.

      IT should be notified as the termination meeting begins and access killed long before the (now former) employee comes out to collect their things.

      1. Sandrine

        As said in another comment, I didn’t mean “take all the company info with you”, it was more something like “If you left personal stuff in there take it with you and save it” .

        1. A Bug!

          I agree, but I would recommend being more proactive than that and be forwarding your personal stuff as soon as you get it. If you wait until you’re fired to think about what you’re doing to do with all your personal stuff, you’re putting your stuff at risk. (I know you weren’t saying otherwise and were tailoring your comment to the article, but I just wanted to make it explicit.)

          You should never believe you have control over the contents of a computer that is owned by your employer. You can’t even be certain that you’ll have access to a given file five minutes from now. You can’t be certain that nobody else has access to that given file right now, either.

          1. Kelly O

            I know most of you guys know this, but I will add, just don’t use your work email for personal things anyway. If you have people you’d like to stay in touch with, go ahead and swap personal email addresses now, or connect on LinkedIn so you can have a way to communicate.

            I still get my old boss’ emails forwarded to me, and the first month I think I forwarded probably close to three dozen emails for him about his son’s basketball team, or their church newsletter, and even his LinkedIn invitations because he forgot to change that address. (And I’m still trying to “unsubscribe” from some email lists that are just proving difficult to get out of for whatever reason.)

  7. Michael C.

    This was very insightful and very handy advice to have, though I hope I won’t have to refer to it anytime soon.

  8. Anonymous

    That’s why I’m happy that I live in Europe! In here unemployment benefit is a full right (the only exception being if you were fired for serious misconduct), companies have just have no say in the process. On top of that anyone has a right to healthcare insurance, whatever your employment status. So basically when you rule out the need to worry about items 5, 6 and 7, all you have to do is focus on the key issues: move on and find a new job!

    1. nyxalinth

      In Europe, companies treat employees like human beings and actually give a damn.

      I was fired once for what seemed like no real reason. Later I ran into a manager in the company, who told me that I and a few others had been fired because they’d fired he guy who’d hired us.

      1. CatB (Europe)

        In Europe, companies treat employees like human beings and actually give a damn

        I wouldn’t phrase it that way. It’s more that the law requires some steps and makes some provisions, under heavy penalties. As far as I see here, both in AAM’s articles and in comments, employee-employer relationships are painfully similar at the core. For example I saw someone say once the original hiring manager was let go, all “his” people were let go. Same will happen here, too, only in a much longer timeframe (since the separation process takes way longer) and with more pain (law requires the company to prove a worker has commited gross misconduct, or several minor errors within a certain timeframe, so many times it turns into a witchhunt and an attrition war).

        But all in all, workers indeed are better protected in the EU in terms of company – employee relationship.

        1. Alisha

          Another difference I’ve observed is that in the US, more citizens unconditionally side with companies. Maybe I’m able to see that it can go both ways because I’ve been in employee, manager, and small business-owner roles and have seen a variety of approaches to management, including the adding and shedding of staff. Or maybe I’m just more cynical than the average American.

          But I’ve encountered a high number of people state-side who, because of an uninterrupted work history, a self-created career track in the “how to get hired” sector, or experience with job loss resulting exclusively from gross misconduct, firmly believe that anyone who shows up on time and does their work without creating trouble will have a job for as long as they want one. Some of them are prominent public voices on employment matters, too, which I think helps shape the national ethos.

  9. Lee Zaruba

    Good original article from AAM. There’s some nice info there that most people aren’t aware of. After all, if you have a career at all, you probably aren’t used to getting fired on a regular basis. Hopefully your experience in this will be lacking.

    (Of course, fired is different than downsized or laid off, as is often discussed here).

  10. Suzanne

    I know someone who was “let go” on a Friday afternoon and was told her insurance, on which she carried her family, was null and void within 24 hours, giving her 24 hours on a week-end to find some sort of health insurance. She also had never had a reprimand or any kind of indication that things were going sour.

    This is standard operating procedure at my current job. People are fired regularly with no reason, no warning. Generally, your first hint is when you try to log into your computer, and it is locked up. Of all the people fired in the past few years, I can only think of one who was given any indication of why.

    1. anon-2

      Here in the United States, there’s something called COBRA.
      http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/health-plans/cobra.htm

      As far as being let go and not given a reason — there are companies now out there, who major employers hire, who provide “guidance” to the company on dodging payment of legitimate unemployment claims.

      A friend of mine was let go by a retailer, and cited “the economy, margins, blah blah blah”… then went to collect his unemployment and was told “they said you were terminated for cause.” The employer fought him, and the state unemployment office — stonewalled them when they were pressed for the reason.

      Finally – after seven months, the company came clean and said “yeah it was a clerical error”. Apparently the schtick is, drag it out, and the claimant will give up. But if he/she pursues it and keeps fighting, eventually, you’ll have to pay.

      Because of various penalties in Massachusetts, it’s not as likely to happen here as in other states.

      1. Long Time Admin

        I couldn’t afford COBRA when I was working, much less after being laid off. What a farce that is!

        I once had my unemployment reinstated after taking a “permanent” job that didn’t work out. The unemployment lady, who I had a phone interview with, couldn’t get my former psychotic boss to return her phone calls (which pissed her off), so she made a judgement in my favor.

        You just never know for sure which way these things will go. If you are refused unemployment, try try again.

  11. Anonymous

    One of the biggest issues people deal with after being fired is getting over the bitterness. It comes out in your interviews and will keep you from getting another job. Even if you were truly wronged by your employer, get over it and move on.

      1. Jamie

        Just make sure you take into account the downside of this security – both the higher tax rates as well as the fact that it’s also harder to fire the slacker co-worker who doubles your workload by being lazy and/or incompetent.

        I’m not saying our system is perfect, by any stretch, but there are downsides to the other systems as well.

        Just thought I would mention it before you started packing :).

        1. Anonymous

          Really? When I was laid off I wasn’t really concerned if the slackers got what they had coming and if everybody’s taxes were low.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            But many people DO have their quality of life at work lowered by slacker coworkers, as demonstrated by letters to this site all the time.

  12. Editor

    When I was laid off this spring, computer access was shut off during the meeting and the health insurance ended right then. I did get COBRA, but the desk staff at the clinic where I had to cancel an appointment told me to get confirmation of COBRA before any big charges came up, if possible, because even when the coverage is paid for during the gap time, the staff said they’d had problems getting the paperwork through.

    It also took weeks to get the COBRA information so I could send the check in. Frankly, I resented having to pay for seven weeks of insurance that I hadn’t actually felt I had as a benefit because signing up for it was so slow. They’ve laid people off before, so it isn’t like providing the information was a new process — just, I suppose — a low priority.

    Also, another thing to do is if you access your pay stubs online, you may want to find out if you could get copies. I couldn’t get on the computers at work, but HR did give me a couple of days during which I printed out some pay stubs I wanted and copied some health insurance information from the corporate HR site, but I couldn’t get to the performance reviews that were there to print extra copies.

    1. Kelly O

      It was my understanding that your COBRA paperwork had to be to you in a certain time frame. My husband didn’t receive his until three months after he was let go. The insurance thing was such a fiasco I can’t even think about it (and I still work for the same company, but thankfully we’re all covered under his insurance now, because it’s more cost-effective.)

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        The law on this is pretty ridiculous. The employer has 30 days to notify the plan administrator, who then has 14 days to provide info to the employee.

  13. Anonymous

    This is great advice for those who work in an office setting, but it definitely varies from company to company.

    My husband was fired without warning. He inquired about the reason, and was given two different reasons (one verbally and one on paper), and a third unknown reason was given when he filed for unemployment. He was honest when he filed & wrote down what was on the paper he received & the company gave a totally different reason. After a month and a half long battle, he was finally granted unemployment. Insurance stopped that day, and I couldn’t get any until that November (this was in April.)

    So, my advice to anyone is to have the reason written down on paper & save it. Frame it if you have to, because it can cause a ton of issues later on.

  14. Vicki

    #1 thing to do is determine if you actually got _fired_ or were in fact “laid off”.

    #2 is to see what the company says. I worked for a company that was laying people off a few at a time over multiple Fridays, without warning. The wording on my “separation notice” was “Voluntary Quit”. Ahem: I did NOT quit and it was NOT voluntary.

  15. Anonymous

    I always encourage people to push back/appeal if their UI is denied, because I feel it never hurts to try. I think it’s especially important when one is not given a reason or is let go for a really odd or insignificant reason.

  16. Anonymous

    Sorry. I hit “Submit” before I finished my thought.

    The exception to this is if the person WAS fired for cause.

  17. Healthcare

    I work in a hospital and perform financial analyst duties regarding health insurance companies, and previously worked in Admissions verifying insurance. Insurance coverage generally ends the day you are let go. Insurance companies have the right to, and almost always do, retroactively terminate coverage. So if you go out and have a lot of procedures, you may later be held responsible for the charges and bill, even if your coverage status is still listed as active on the date of service. Before assuming insurance will pay, carefully read your insurance benefit booklet to determine whether coverage ends at the end of the month, or on the day of termination. My experience is day of termination, though.

  18. DanCarroll

    I just got fired last Friday! Do they have to keep me and my family covered under insurance till the end of the month? Is that a Labor law or is that up to the employer. I am from Ma. so I know every State can be different? Thx!

    1. Jamie

      The federal labor law is that if your employer has over 50 employees, and you were previously on their insurance plan, and you weren’t fired for gross misconduct they have to offer you the option of COBRA – which is continuing on your former employers plan for 18 months (longer if you qualify for exceptions).

      It’s more expensive, since you will typically be paying the whole premium as the employer no longer needs to pay their share. (They can of course, but it’s rare). It can be cheaper than private insurance sometimes, and sometimes not…a lot depends on pre-existing conditions.

      If you opt for COBRA I would make darn sure your premium checks are never late – as that’s cause to discontinue the coverage.

      Regarding your current coverage, I’d look at your plan. Did you pay for the month of September front loaded – so the premiums are covered for this month? Or does it come out incrementally with each check?

      According to the DOL employers have 30 days to notify the plan admin of your termination. How quickly they do this will play a part in how quickly you’re dropped.

      I don’t know anything about Mass in particular, but the federal laws are something people get confused about so I thought I would answer to that.

  19. Michele

    I was fired from a company I worked at over 8 years for taking money ($75.00) from the birthday kitty I managed. How do answer interview questions as to why I was fired?

    1. Anonymous

      Just for info… My reason was to help my daughter keep her lights on. My reason… Not an excuse. I own up to my stupid decision. And i am paying for it. My world has crashed all around me. I just need to know the right words to start over again.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      The best thing you can do is probably to take responsibility for it and talk about what you’ve learned from the experience. It’s going to raise a question of character/integrity for employers, so you’ve got to talk about it in a way to convinces them that you’ve learned a lesson and will never be anything other than scrupulously ethical in the future.

  20. Lucas

    I had a workmans comp injure back in june lost my index finger. Before that my attendance was excelant then my attendance got worse over the last 5 months had a family emergancy which was neccasary to leave not go in and they fired me I still had another point left but they said they couldnt see me going that long without calling in so they are doing it now.

  21. Confused

    I was fired for supposedly for not taking my 15 minute break. My understanding was that I need to log it, if I did not take my break, which I did. Come to find out they said I was suppose to log it and tell a manager, which for the past two years, since I’ve been in the department, the only thing we did was log that we did not take a break. They pulled an 6 month log, which showed I had not taken a break 30 times. Seriously what is 15 minutes when I only make $12 an hour.

  22. Jane

    After having been hired in and working at my office for six weeks, I was let go for “not fitting in.” What exactly does this mean? I pressed for an answer and got “I’m only following orders” and “you’re not a good fit.”

    This is after having been given a bonus and several remarks of positive feedback regarding my work.

    Any insight?

  23. linda

    hi i worked in a daycare for a 1yr and some months in october i became pregnant i have worked a while their my boss knew im pregnant so she sent me home on sick leave until d nursery re opens then she text me on facebook and say she wont no longer need my service cause kids leaving and she cant afford to pay for my nis and maternity she fired me for that im hurt because i hav a next child how i paying my bills i dont know who to run to

  24. Barbara

    I was reading all of the questions and comments on this website, and I must say, it makes me feel better to know I am not the only one-it just feels that way right now.
    I was actively recruited by a physician to be his Office Manager. I relocated (from another city and state) at my own expense, and one week and one day after I started, I was fired. I was told by the physician “I just don’t think things are going to work out”. Really?! I moved, changed my whole life, at my own expense-now I have no job, am in a strange city and state where I do not know anyone, and am having to cash out some of my pension to just keep paying my bills! It is unfathomable to me that someone can do this to another human being, but he did. And, I am told by the state Workforce Solutions Department, that because he is an at-will employer in an at-will state, there is nothing I can do. He can fire anyone wihtout cause at any time.
    So, at great expense, I am going to move back to where I am from. At least I have friends and family there and hopefully can get through this nightmare. Be warned, get a SIGNED contract if this happens to you-PRIOR to taking ANY job. Mine was only verbal-and, I guess I am too trusting, actually taking people at their word, a foolish thing to do in this day and age. I feel duped and betrayed.

  25. Melinda

    I was recently fired from my job, my boss and I have conflicts, his never happened before in the company, they let me go, with no explanation, all my boss told me that HR was letting me go, how can I put this on job applications, I feel this has ruined my career, and that it will affect me from getting another job.

  26. Shelly

    It is legal for a company to tell you-you have to sign a paper to get a copy of you pay stub?

  27. abbs3

    I was terminated a couple of months ago after being on LOA for over a year. Long story short I was on LOA because I could not do my job anymore with my eye sight loss and they wanted me to do a lesser job. Needless to say I no longer wanted to work for them anyway but could’t communicate with them due to the feeling of injustice. Now I don’t want to put terminated on my applications for a new job. How can I get my ex employer to change my termination status to resigned?

  28. Anon

    The big companies are brutal.
    I was a route sales rep for the worlds largest food company and they fired me without cause a few weeks before my wife is having our first baby. They tried to make it about “performance issues” but could not pin me on anything because it was all lies.
    When I asked about health insurance, my boss told me that I would be covered for an additional month after term date, so I went to lots of doctors appointments. Later I called HR and they told me that my insurance coverage ended on the day I was terminated.
    My boss lied to me and now I have nothing in writing.
    It is simply my word versus the boss.
    Corporate America!

  29. Rich

    I have a question! Ok I went into work last night and my boss and had informe me that they wanted me to work the previous night on my night off, but I had called in to work the night before explaining I had strep throat! Well when I got the job I signed paperwork stating that I wouldn’t work if I had a contagious sickness cause I work around food! I went in on my next day I had to work and I got fired! Well they fired me cause I didn’t come in on they day they wanted me too! But they never called me personally to ask me to come in so I had no clue! My question is can they fire me if they never called me personally and I never knew about it?

  30. Belinda Fouts

    My husband has been working a company that says they are “contract labor” but was required to be there a 8 am and couldn’t leave til 3 pm. He has a week of paid vacation coming after the one years mark and he had his vacation scheduled for the 4 of July weekend. They terminated him yesterday his year mark was in January. Do they still legally have to give him his vacation pay

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