What To Do If You’re Fired Without Notice

What To Do If You’re Fired Without Notice

Losing a job can be a difficult experience, especially if you’re fired or laid off without notice. The loss of income and the uncertainty about the future can be overwhelming and scary. But it’s important to know that you’re not alone. Many people have been fired without notice at least once in their professional lives. If it makes you feel a little better, please know that it’s not just you.

Unfortunately, it seems like it’s happening more frequently than in the past. The reason may have nothing to do with you or your skills, abilities, or qualifications to do the job. It can have everything to do with the company, its performance, and its policies. So, it’s important to try not to take it personally.

Review advice on what to do if you get fired without notice, including legal and financial issues, and how to fast-track a job search and get hired.

How To Handle Being Fired Without Notice

The good news is that there are steps you can take to ease the transition and move forward. You may be eligible for severance pay and unemployment benefits to help you financially. There are steps you can take to get your job search on a fast track to get hired quickly.

Legal Issues 

In most states in the U.S., employment is “at-will,” meaning that an employer may terminate an employee at any time and for any reason, as long as it’s not discriminatory or illegal. If you are covered by employment at will, your employer may be able to fire you without a warning or notice.

However, if you have an employment contract or are covered by a collective bargaining agreement or relevant federal, state, or local laws, you may have protection from being terminated without notice. 

WARN Act Protections

There are exceptions to employment at will, such as the WARN Act, which mandates covered employers who lay off more than 100 people to give notice 60 days before the layoff. 

Some states and cities have mini-warn acts that protect employees from unannounced layoffs. Check with your state department of labor for information on which laws apply to your situation.

Wrongful Termination

Other federal and state laws protect employees who have been discriminated against or otherwise wrongfully terminated. Reasons a termination can be considered wrongful include:

  • Discrimination
  • Violation of a federal or state labor law
  • You refused to participate in harassment
  • Being asked to conduct an illegal act or safety violation
  • Your employer did not follow its termination policy


Employment Contracts and Bargaining Agreements

If you have an employment contract or are covered by a collective bargaining agreement stipulating when and how much notice employers must give before firing an employee, the contract terms should apply. There may be exceptions if someone is fired for gross misconduct or another serious violation of company policy.

If your company has violated the contract’s provisions, you may be able to take legal action or get assistance from the department of labor.

Severance Pay

Your company may offer you severance pay, but you can’t count on it. Severance pay is typically given to employees who are let go through no fault of their own, such as during a downsizing or restructuring. However, severance pay is not guaranteed.

If you receive severance pay, the amount you receive will depend on several factors, including the length of your employment and your salary. Typically, severance pay is given in a lump sum and is designed to help tide you over until you find your next job.

Getting Paid and Employee Benefits

Most employers have policies for terminating employees, including the amount of money they must pay and the benefits you’re entitled to as a departing employee. 

Ensure you thoroughly read your employee handbook, consult with your HR representative, and double-check your paycheck and benefits when you receive them.

Filing for Unemployment

If you are fired without notice, you may be eligible to apply for unemployment insurance. Eligibility varies from state to state, so it’s important to check your state’s guidelines carefully. 

Fast Track Your Job Search

It can be challenging to get a new job, especially after being fired without notice. However, there are ways you can boost your chances of getting hired. 


What to Say During Job Interviews

It’s understandable to be nervous about job interviews after being fired from your previous job. The best strategy is to be honest, but don’t dwell on the details. Don’t provide too much information. Keep your explanation simple, and move on. 

Tip: Prepare in advance to answer the interview question “Why were you fired?” so you’re comfortable responding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can an employer terminate an employee without any reason or notice?

A: Depending on your employment contract, if you have one, and federal and state law, employers may not be required to provide notice or a reason for termination. However, they must follow applicable labor laws and the terms of an employment contract.

Q: Do I have any legal rights if I am terminated without notice?

A: Yes, employees terminated without notice usually have rights, such as receiving unpaid wages, any owed vacation pay, severance pay (if applicable), and access to unemployment benefits, depending on local laws.

Q: Can I challenge the termination if I believe it was unjust?

A: If you feel the termination was unjust, you may have the right to challenge it through legal means, such as filing a complaint with the federal or state department of labor or seeking legal counsel to assess the situation.

Q: Can I request a written explanation for the termination?

A: Yes, you can request a written explanation for the termination, especially if you believe it was unfair or unjustified.

Q: What should I do immediately after being terminated?

A: After being terminated, you should gather any personal belongings from your workplace, understand your rights, and consider your options for future employment.

The information in this article is not legal advice nor a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.

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  • August 23, 2023