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Wrongful Termination: Why a Separation Notice Matters

Being terminated is difficult, as a wrongful discharge lawyer trusts can attest. You’re angry, emotional, worried, confused, and experiencing all the other feelings that may go along with being terminated. You may want to storm out of your employer’s office, pray you get your last check, and hope that they pay you for your unused vacation and sick days. After being notified of termination, you might pack up your belongings, put them in a box, throw the box in your car trunk, and speed away from that horrible work environment. Often, however, a terminated employee may forget to get (or may even be denied) a key document from the employer: the separation notice. Separation notices can be very important to have when you are terminated from your position.

First, without a separation notice, you may have difficulty applying for and receiving your unemployment benefits. Employers may even deny or fail to give an employee a separation notice, which leaves an employee with two options at the unemployment office. The employer will have to be contacted and asked for a separation notice, or the employee may be surprised to find that the employer has cast the termination as a resignation to the Department of Labor, which could potentially bar the employee from unemployment benefits.

Second, if you have been wrongfully terminated from your position, a separation notice may be crucial to your case. On the Department of Labor separation notice, under section 4, the employer is directed to dictate the reason for separation. If the separation is for any reason other than a “LACK OF WORK,” an employer is directed to proffer an explanation as to the reason for the termination. If you are suing your employer for discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the employer is likely to document you were fired for reasons other than discrimination. However, the reasons for your termination offered by your employer during deposition or put forward in their position statement to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) may be different than the reason your employer listed on your separation notice. This incongruity may be indicative of pretext (i.e., a made-up reason for your termination) that may then be used as evidence the employer was trying to cover up for discrimination. A separation can also be used to show the pay you received while employed with your employer, as well as the dates of your employment. This is helpful when determining lost wages or calculating how many months you were with the company for purposes of other laws that could be applicable, such as the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

In conclusion, if you are ever terminated, before leaving your employer’s premises and potentially burning bridges on your way out of the parking lot, try to get your separation notice. It could be the one piece of evidence you need to make your employment case.

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