No one enjoys a meeting with HR. You are either about to make a complaint about someone, be “counseled” on your performance, or let go from your job. Even if the termination is not related to your performance, it still means you are losing your job and are likely to be surprised and upset.
Knowing your rights at that termination meeting will help you stay in control and calm through the process.
Here are a few things to remember:
- Yes, you can be handed a box and walked to your car by corporate security. It is the most humiliating way to let an employee go but plenty of employers think that this is the right/safe way to do it. Some employers won’t permit their employees to return to their desk or pack their personal belongings but will ship them to the employee at a later date.
- Yes, your employer may turn off your email and access to their servers prior to or during the termination meeting. They can take the company issued phones, laptops, tablets etc. even if they contain personal items such as pictures, videos, emails and even if you have used those devices and phone numbers for many years. Some companies may agree to copy your personal information and send it to you but if the termination is contentious, it is unlikely that they will agree to do this.
- Yes, your employer can refuse to give you a good recommendation letter, even if your separation has nothing to do with any performance issues. All employers will provide a neutral recommendation confirming dates of service and title and many larger employers will use a third party administrator to confirm neutral references.
- No, you are not entitled to receive notice or 2 weeks pay as severance. While some employers may offer severance pay they are not required to do so. Being an “at will” employee means that you can be terminated for any reason without notice and without severance, unless you have a contract or collective bargaining agreement that provides otherwise.
- No, you cannot be told you have to sign a severance agreement in that meeting or lose the offer contained in it. Employers must give you at least 21 days to review an agreement and sign it if you choose to do so.
- No, an employer cannot threaten to take negative action against you, like withdrawing an offer to pay severance, because you tell them you want to seek legal counsel.
The Bottomline: Remember to stay calm during the termination meeting, don’t sign anything and don’t say or do anything that may be used against you. If you feel that you were wrongfully terminated, then seek legal counsel after the meeting but keep your cool while at work.