Getting money to cover your expenses after losing a job is critically important for many West Virginians. If you’ve been laid off or fired and it’s unrelated to your performance, you may receive a severance package that can help you and your family through a tough time while you’re looking for another job.
But are you guaranteed such compensation? Not necessarily. According to an article in The Muse, an employee is not entitled to anything beyond his or her salary and any paid time off through the last day of employment.
But the “rules” related to compensation after a layoff or firing that has nothing to do with performance fall under a gray area. Fortunately for terminated employees, there is some protection under the Worker Adjustment and Training Notification (W.A.R.N.) Act. A company with more than 100 employees that is preparing for a significant lay off is required by law to give workers 60 days’ notice of a company closing or large department closing, according to The Muse.
Here are some common scenarios involving layoffs and severance pay:
- What if the company fails to give 60 days’ notice? The employee would be entitled to severance pay, according to the law.
- What if you’re fired without notice? The employer may offer severance pay, but with discretion. The Muse reported that such pay may be offered under an agreement that the employee will not take legal action against the company.
- What if you’re fired due to budget cuts or restructuring? The company may offer severance pay in such cases, as long as your dismissal is not due to questions about performance.
The amount of severance you may receive is not standard across the industry. But generally, companies consider how long someone has been employed. In many cases, a laid-off worker will get a week or two of pay for every year of employment.
Everything is negotiable – even severance pay
What many employees may not realize is that they can negotiate a severance package. You may have language in an employment contract that spells out what you are entitled to receive. You also can ask your company for more money based on your years of service or your position within the company. While a laid off or fired employee may not have much negotiating power, it can’t hurt to ask.
You also may want to ask that your employer pay for your insurance coverage after leaving the company or ask whether you can keep a laptop computer for a little while after leaving the company.
If you are receiving severance pay, keep in mind that the money is considered as taxable income.
Were you or a loved one laid off from a job and have questions about post-employment compensation? An experienced employment attorney can sit down with you and discuss your next steps. Contact Klie Law Offices to discover how we can help.