Most of the time, when an employee is fired, it is not a surprise. Typically, there are many warning signs or steps that occur before employees are fired. Most companies have a formal or informal progressive discipline policy which provides for first a verbal warning, then a written warning, followed by possible termination. There is no requirement that employers have a progressive discipline policy. In California most employees are ”at will”, and can be terminated at any time, for any reason, consistent with the law.
Some steps you should take if you believe you’re going to be fired are as follows:
1) Request a copy of your personnel file. California law requires an employer provide employees the opportunity to review and copy personnel files or documents they signed related to obtaining or holding their employment. If you believe you’re going to be fired you should request a copy of your personnel file, including timecards, pay records and evaluations. In the event you are fired and seek legal advice, an attorney can evaluate your rights easier, by reviewing documents which may be in your personnel file.
2) Remove your personal documents from company computers. It is generally a bad idea to use company computers for personal emails or documents. Most companies have policies against using company computers for such purpose. Some employers have policies that remind employees they can be terminated for using company computers for personal reasons.
3) Obtain a copy of the employee policies. If your company has an employee handbook, get one. If they have other written policies that are available and normally distributed to employees, get them. This is particularly true of meal and rest break policies, pay computation policies and timecard policies.
4) Keep notes. It is recommended that you keep notes of the day-to-day activities at work. Do not write the notes during work time, but rather write them down during breaks or meal periods. Across the top of the note page write the words “notes for my attorney”. You should record details of certain events that you may be inclined to forget later. Important things, such as who was present and overheard conversations, names of witnesses and phone numbers. It is not a bad idea to keep names of coworkers and their phone numbers. Your notes should not be left at work they should be taken with you, and left at home. If you’re terminated, you may not have the opportunity to get such information if it is left at work. If you suspect later, that you are wrongfully terminated, one of the first questions an attorney will ask you is for names and phone numbers of witnesses and any notes you kept.
5) Use health insurance benefits. If you have company sponsored health insurance and you are fired, it is possible that your health insurance may be canceled immediately. You should not put off doctors appointments until after you’ve been terminated.
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