A termination letter allows you to end things legally and smoothly.
End things smoothly.
A termination letter is usually the last step in an employment relationship. For employers, it’s an opportunity to explain why you're ending an individual's employment, and outline other details about the termination. This written record can help protect employers with any questions or legal issues arise regarding the termination. Common elements of a termination letter include the reason for termination, the “lead up” to termination, how company property will be dealt with, details on how benefits will be handled, such as vacation time and medical insurance. For employees, it’s important to understand your termination letter. The terms within the letter may determine if you’re eligible for unemployment benefits and the recourse, if any, that you have to contest your termination. Speaking with an employment attorney can help preserve and understand any legal rights you have.
Benefits of legal advice.
Protect your future self
Most employers will turn to an attorney to draft their employment contracts. It only makes sense for you to have an attorney review the same contract.
Have an attorney to turn to
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Understand your rights
A termination letter addresses topics like disclaimers and severance. You run the risk of waiving certain rights when you go and sign a termination letter before having an attorney tell you exactly what you’re signing.
Do I need an attorney to draft or review a termination letter?
Not necessarily, but it’s a good idea. While a termination letter itself is not very complex, the preparation and review of one requires time and effort. It’s advisable to analyze the termination letter with your employment contract, employment handbook, unemployment laws in your state and other relevant resources. An experienced lawyer can do all of this in a timely fashion in an attempt to avoid unnecessary legal action.
Are termination letters used when terminating at-will employees?
Yes. Although at-will employment allows employers to terminate their employees for any reason, it still cannot be for an illegal reason like discrimination or whistleblowing. A termination letter can be helpful for clearing up any uncertainties and serve as a device in court to prove a legal reason for the termination.
Can an employer hold my last paycheck until I return company property?
No, your employer can't withhold your final paycheck until you return company property. However, your employer may be able to deduct the cost of unreturned property from your paycheck. States have differing laws on these types of deductions from final paychecks so it’s smart to consult with an employment attorney to understand your rights.
Is an employer required to provide a reason for terminating an employee?
There is no federal law that requires an employer to provide a reason for firing an employee. However, some states have laws that require employers to provide the reason for termination upon the former employee’s request. This is called a “service letter” law.
If I am laid off, does my employer have to pay me severance?
There is no legal requirement for employers to pay severance to terminated employees. In most cases, this is a voluntary decision that the employer makes in its discretion. However, an employee may be entitled to severance pay if he/she has an employment contract guaranteeing severance. Also, if the employer has a company policy (e.g., stated in an employee handbook) to pay severance to workers then you may be eligible under certain circumstances.
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