What should you not do if you are about to be fired? Many employees become very confused when confronted with the possibility of being terminated. Employees should understand that employers can generally terminate you at any time for any reason, provided the termination is lawful. Terminations may be unlawful if they occur for a prohibited reason, such as an employee being of a certain race or age, or in response to the disability. Maybe the termination is in retaliation for complaints of workplace safety. A careful evaluation of the circumstances of termination will be required by an attorney.
Many employees, when confronted with a possible termination, anticipate what an attorney will need to advise the employee, and are tempted to engage in “self-help”, such as taking documents from the workplace. There are some acts that you should not engage in if you’re about to terminated.
1) Do not take home company property that you are not entitled to. Some employees mistakenly believe they can start accumulating documentation in their defense to be used in the event of a termination. If the documents you are thinking about taking home are documents that you had a legitimate right to take home, the taking or copying of the non-confidential documents may be okay. However original documents, which are the property of the employer should not be removed. It is best to seek legal advice before taking any documents home.
2) Do not prepare your resume on engage in social media activity while at work or on the company computer. Employees are tempted to use company computers to prepare the resume or use the computer for personal purposes. Many companies have policies that prevent using computers of personal reasons, such as participating in social media while at work. The employer could consider this stealing company time.
3) Do not secretly tape record coworkers or supervisors of the employer without their permission. Many employees believe it is lawful to tape record conversations with their supervisors for use as “evidence” later on. However, in California such conduct is usually a crime. Such a tape-recording (or video) is inadmissible in court. If an employee secretly tapes a workplace discussion, they open themselves up to fines and criminal prosecutions. Additionally, if a prospective attorney for a terminated employee learns of a secret tape-recording, the likelihood is great that the attorney will decline the case.
4) Be aware of confidentiality agreements. Many employers have employees sign confidentiality agreements when they are hired. Confidentiality agreements may prevent employees from discussing workplace issues outside the workplace, or prevent employees from utilizing information obtained during employment for personal benefit. Some agreements go even further and prohibit employees from engaging in certain occupations in competition with the employer, or utilizing employer’s customer lists or processes. While such agreements may or may not be lawful, an employee could be subjected to an employer’s legal action if they breach confidentiality agreements.
5) Do not discuss your employment situation with coworkers or social media. Many employees feel they need to discuss their work issues with coworkers for moral support. However, coworkers are likely to talk to others and share your private information. No matter how tempting it is to tell a coworker of private workplace issues, such conversations are generally likely to backfire.
6) Do not retaliate against the employer. Many employees are tempted to destroy company property or files. Such angry conduct will backfire. It will likely affect your ability to obtain employment if a prospective employer contacts your former employer. Additionally certain types of retaliation may be illegal, or subject you to civil liability. Do not post grievances on the internet. Ultimately, if you bring legal action, and you have engaged in vindictive or secretive retaliation against an employer, it will hurt your case.
7) If you are fired, do not sign an exit interview. You may need time to think about the statement on the form. Employers generally have employees sign exit interview forms as a way of protecting themselves. You are not required to sign the form. It is unlawful for an employer to withhold your final paycheck unless you sign the exit area form.
8) Do not sign a severance agreement without consulting with an attorney. Most employers who offer severance agreements will allow the employee several days to a week to review the document and should encourage the employee to consult with an attorney. Severance agreements are generally valid unless they are entered into under unconscionable circumstances. You should think clearly and unemotionally about whether to accept a severance package. Most severance packages are given in exchange for a waiver of all rights to sue the employer for wrongful termination. An employer that insists that you immediately sign a severance agreement, may have an unscrupulous motive.
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