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What Are Your Legal Rights If You Were Just Laid Off?

Businessman carrying a cardboard box with his personal stuff from work after just getting laid off from his job.

Our attorneys can protect your rights if you lost your job.

While the job market is currently strong for workers overall, in certain sectors of the economy, high-profile layoffs have made headlines across the country. Well-known companies like Amazon, Google, and Citigroup opened 2024 with layoffs, and while those job cuts may make business sense, they can be devastating for the employees involved.

If you've been laid off or are facing layoffs, it's critical that you know your legal rights. While at-will employment gives employers fairly wide latitude to make job cuts, they still must comply with the law, and if your employer did not do so, you have legal recourse. Our experienced wrongful termination attorneys can help you move forward.

In some circumstances, the employer may be required to provide notice

The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) requires employers to provide at least 60 days' notice of impending layoffs under some circumstances. To be protected by the WARN Act, your employer must have at least 100 full-time employees, and the layoff must either:

  • Involve a "plant closure" (closing an entire operating unit or site of employment and laying off at least 50 employees), or
  • Involve at least 500 full-time employees at a single employment site.

If your employer violated the WARN Act, you may be entitled to back pay and benefits for the entire period of the violation.

If you are offered severance, you may be able to negotiate

Employers are not legally required to offer severance during layoffs, but many choose to do so to maintain goodwill and ease the transition for their former employees. If you are offered a severance agreement, remember that you don't have to sign it right away. Take some time to review it and ensure that it actually meets your needs.

Remember, it's not just the dollar figure that matters when it comes to separation and severance. Pay attention to any continuation of your benefits, as well as whether the company commits to giving you a positive or at least a neutral reference. And if you have any reason to believe you may have grounds to sue your employer, make sure you talk to an attorney before you sign because that severance agreement could cost you much more than you are paid.

Employers can't lay you off for illegal reasons

Again, because of at-will employment, employers are generally free to lay off workers, but they can't do so for illegal reasons. If layoffs disproportionately affect workers of a particular race, gender, age (if over 40), or another protected characteristic, then you might have a discrimination claim. Likewise, if you were laid off after reporting sexual harassment or engaging in another legally protected activity, then you may have a retaliation claim.

There are a few factors that could make such a claim easier or harder. For instance, if the number of people affected by the layoff is fairly small, it may be easier to show a disparate impact on discriminatory lines. It's certainly suspicious if an employer just has to "lay off" one employee. It's much harder to prove discrimination or retaliation if the employer eliminates an entire department or location since that's likely for a legitimate business reason, but the only way to know is to talk to an attorney.

If you've been affected by layoffs and have any reason to believe your employer violated the law, our experienced wrongful termination lawyers can protect your rights. Take action right away. Contact Gibson Law, LLC today for a free case evaluation.

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