If you are likely to leave your job soon, figure out some important things now -- so you can make a plan for how best to leave your job.

Can you save your job?

What do you need to know and do now to protect your rights?

1. Can you save your job?

If you might be fired, make sure that you understand exactly what your boss thinks the problem is. Try to insist that they follow the company’s discipline procedure, including each step.

If there might be a layoff, find out if there are openings in another part of the company that you could go to. Find out if the company has a procedure to re-call workers after a layoff. Make sure you are on the re-call list, even if you don't think you want to go back. You can always say "no" when you are called back.

2. Protect your rights later.

Find out the company's policies on:
Giving notice  Does your job expect you to give notice? Usually, you don’t HAVE to give notice, but you should find out:

  • Does your boss usually fire people after they give notice?
  • Some companies have a policy that they will not pay for accrued vacation if you don’t give notice.
  • Will you need a reference from your boss? Leaving without giving notice could mean that you don’t get a good reference.

Severance pay There is no law requiring severance pay. Generally, you have a right to it if:

  • you were promised severance pay
  • it’s in the employee handbook
  • your company has always given it to workers in similar situations
  • your company has a severance plan.

Remember, if you don't have a union, an employer can change a policy, or the rules, at anytime.

There is one time that workers may have extra rights - if there is a big layoff.

Paying out accrued benefit time Find out ahead of time if you will be paid for accrued time. You may be able to use some of the time before you leave or negotiate to get paid for it. Read more in the final pay section.

Discipline procedure If you don't have union protection, there are no guarantees that your employer will follow the rules that they wrote. But, many employers will follow their discipline procedure. You should try to demand that they follow their own procedure. Read more in the discipline section.

Will you be eligible for re-hire? Even if you never want to work there again, it's worth understanding your rights. In the future, you might change your mind. Also, when other employers call for a reference, they often ask if the worker is eligible for re-hire.

Unemployment rules If you know the rules, you can make sure that you don't do something that will stop you from collecting benefits. Decide what could help you prove how and why you left your job.

You can't collect Unemployment Insurance if you quit (unless you have a really good reason). Even if you aren't going to collect unemployment, you might be able to get something in exchange for quitting, since it's easier for your boss. Bosses don’t like workers to collect unemployment because their rates go up. Fighting an unemployment claim takes time and money for them, too.

Collect documents that you may need later. Take papers home that you might need later. For example, job descriptions, performance reviews, or awards for attendance. If your company has a policy not to give references, how can you show what you did and how well you did it? If your company fights your unemployment, what can help prove that they're lying?

Some workers have rights to review their file, have copies, and add a rebuttal statement (to defend themselves). If you don't have those rights, there may be a policy to let workers see their files.

Was there discrimination or retaliation against you? Discrimination is when one group of workers are held to a different standard because they are in a legally protected group (such as age, race, religion, or national origin).

Retaliation is treating someone badly because they did something that is protected by law (such as filing a claim with a government agency, refusing to break a law, testifying in an employment claim, and other things that are different in each state).

3. Make a plan if you are leaving your job.

Are there are warning signs that you may get fired (such as a discipline notice, a bad performance evaluation, or you are put on probation) or that your employer might shut down or layoff workers (including rumors, fewer customers or orders, and bounced or late paychecks)?

If you know your rights and the company policies, you may be able to control when and how you leave and if you can ask for anything to make it easier for you.