I was recently laid off my job. I had been with the company one year, and the other day, out of nowhere, I was called down to HR and told I was being laid off for lack of available work. I know this to not be true since other employees had just been hired in order to process the amount of work we were handling. That aside, there was no severance package offered to me in any way, nor was I asked to sign any termination papers. My question is: Can I demand a severance package from my ex-employer? How can I go about doing it?
Also, after inquiring as to the reason for my release a second time, I was told that it was because I was not able to handle the work. So, is this misrepresentation of termination? Can I do something about it?
If you have an actual contract with your employer, and it addresses termination, you can probably rely on what that contract says you are entitled to. If there’s an employee handbook that addresses termination, you may be able to rely on that. If you happen to have a union, it may have negotiated termination procedures with your employer, and you can demand your employer follow those.
However, if none of the above apply, the default of “at will” employment applies, which means an employer can fire an employee for any reason without notice (and an employee can quit for any reason without notice). If that’s the case, there’s not really any recourse for you. Without another agreement (a contract), your employer can fire you without notice and without severance, and signing termination papers is not required. Your employer is also under no obligation to give you a reason for your termination, much less to give you a truthful reason for your termination. The only recourse you may have is if you were fired because of discrimination of race, sex, religion, or age (if you are over 40). If you believe this is the case, or if you did have an actual or implied contract with your employer, consulting an attorney who specializes in employment law may be a good idea.