Discharge from employment, “getting fired”, can be really traumatic. And bewildering. The initial shock leaves you reeling. The sense of betrayal by people you thought were loyal friends hurts. The worry about what will happen to you and yours keeps you up at night.
Clear your head. Take it one step at a time. Step one- file for unemployment compensation. It’s not the same as your regular weekly paycheck for wages, but it’s there to tide you over until you get another job. You may have heard something that leads you to believe you won’t draw unemployment benefits. Your friends may say you won’t get it. Don’t let that stop you. Don’t talk yourself out of trying. Leave eligibility up to the unemployment office. Go ahead and file. The worst that can happen is that you’re ineligible. You may be pleasantly surprised.
I’ll discuss Step Two in an upcoming post soon.
Hourly. Salary. Independent contractor. Gig worker in the sharing economy. In the decentralized, subcontracted work world, who’s responsible for paying you what the law requires? Is it the customer? Is the contractor you report to? Is it the big business above them? All or none of the above?
Our federal and state labor laws about wages and hours are easily applied to traditional employer-employee relationships. In those cases, the requirements and limits of minimum wage, required overtime, and benefits like health insurance and retirement have been spelled out for decades.
But the wage and hour laws also apply to nontraditional workers in emerging workplaces. To people who are labeled “independent contractors”, but who aren’t independent enough to be small business people on their own. The technical term is “misclassification.” Professionals in health care, such as nurses and techs, should pay close attention and review whether they are properly classified as contractors or employees.
Maybe they call you a boss, a supervisor, or a manager, etc. and classify you as exempt from overtime. It’s more than just the title. “Supervisors” without substantial authority over others may be misclassified, too.
Insubordination. Work now, grieve later. Wrongful termination. What do these mean?
I confess, I’ve long struggled with “insubordination”. Though giving and taking orders is foundational for harmony on the job, it’s that has marked progress through the years. Where would we be if the heroes of the past had only done what they were told?
But challenging authority comes with risk and consequence. Taking a stand for rights and principle against orders usually gets you fired. I just got a call about a man who stood up for himself. He refused to do work that wasn’t his and belonged to another. What’s more, he was union, so he believed he was following the contract.
He was fired. But he lost his case, on the time-worn principle of “work now, grieve later.” That is, he would still be employed if he’d done as he was told, then challenged it, in hope of winning in front of a neutral decisionmaker.
If you get fired, file for unemployment. Don’t believe anyone who says that you “can’t”. You can file. Filing is your right. What they’re really saying is, “you may not be allowed to draw unemployment.” But you won’t know if you don’t try. As they say here in Kentucky, a basketball state, “you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” File.
You’ll talk to a caseworker. Tell your story. The employer must persuade the unemployment officer that you engaged in misconduct attributable to the employment. If you draw, good. If you don’t, appeal to ask for a referee hearing. Watch your time limits for appeal on the papers you receive. You may not succeed, but then again, you could.
Don’t pass up the opportunity for the income you need while you look for another job because “they said”, or “somebody said” that you “can’t” file. File.
We usually say that an employer may fire an employee for “good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all.” This is a downer. It’s confusing: people are generally ignorant of their rights on the job. They often only think about such rights when they’re in trouble and call a lawyer.
If the lawyer scares them off with those words, when they’re already feeling vulnerable, they become downcast, fatalistic and passive. They wonder, “But what about all those cases where workers have sought their rights in court and won? How did that happen?”
I like this better. “Workers can’t be fired for an illegal reason”. Or better, “Workers can only be fired for a legal reason.” It’s equally true, and it encourages workers to explore their rights. What do you think?
Welcome to my blog. I’m new at this, so bear with me. I’ll be posting here from time to time on a variety of topics- wrongful termination, unemployment, right to work, independent contractors, getting fired, joint employers, you name it. Please take a look every so often.