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Getting Fired is a Good Thing

So often I receive calls from clients who believe they were wrongfully terminated and then spend the next 10 minutes (or more) explaining to me how awful their hours were, how awful their employer was, how mean their coworkers were, and how much misery they have spent the last X amount of time enduring. If I am feeling bold, I respond with "congratulations! You never have to deal with that job again!" The point is, that sometimes it's okay to get fired. Sometimes it's a blessing to be welcomed. So, if you've been fired, set aside your ego for a moment and focus on the benefits of losing your job -- especially one that made you miserable.

Employees often think it’s better to quit a job than to be fired. They often worry that future employers will judge them harshly if they were “fired.” Most of the time, they are angry with their employers and their ego dictates that “taking control” by quitting is better. It’s not. Here are two primary reasons why an employee should wait to be fired.

First, when an employee quits they are no longer eligible for unemployment benefits. There is an exception to this rule known as constructive termination. Constructive termination occurs when an employer takes every step to terminate an employee except for actually saying the words, “you’re fired.”

Sometimes an employer will go so far as to say: “We aren’t terminating you, we just don’t think you should work here anymore.” Or, “We aren’t terminating you, but maybe you should consider looking for work elsewhere.” Whether an employee has been constructively terminated requires a fact-specific analysis. However, when an employer says these types of phrases, the fact that an employee happens to pull the trigger on ending the relationship does not disqualify him or her from obtain unemployment insurance. Nevertheless, the default rule is that quitters are not entitled to unemployment benefits. So, if an employer believes he or she will be fired soon, preemptive quitting is not recommended.

Second, when an employee quits, they are rarely offered a severance package. While severance packages are not required in California, they are often offered to the benefit of both parties. Employers like the mutual release of claims that is usually tied to the severance package. An employee who quits first, will usually lose their opportunity to be offered and obtain a severance agreement.

For those employees worried that being “fired” will look negative on their employment record: First, consider that an employment record isn’t usually public knowledge. As such, there are ways to protect an employee’s reputation. One way is to obtain a severance agreement and be sure it includes a non-disparagement clause. This clause commits the employer to only provide the dates and positions of employment to a future employer. In fact, many companies only provide this information as a policy. Instead of relying on a human resources manager or company owner for a reference, and employee should provide his/her prospective employer with the name of a specific individual.

The bottom line is that when an employee quits, they lose their opportunity for negotiation and future compensation. So, as you can see, being fired from a job you hate anyway has its benefits.

Published by the San Diego Professional Journal.

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