The unexpected loss of a job can be a personal and financial shock. However, the vast majority of employees in the U.S. are employed at will. This means that either party may terminate the employment contract at will for any reason that is not illegal, a breach of employment contract or in violation of public policy, such as firing based on gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. File an appeal with human resources at your employer to dispute reasons for termination, or obtain leal council if you feel your termination is in violation of at-will employment.
File a written request with human resources for an official statement of the reason for your termination. However, not all states require companies to do this. This is not the time to argue your case for why you presume you were fired; be patient and collect the data you need.
Locate your employment contract, company employment policies and any performance reviews you have received. If you cannot locate these, request copies of them from human resources. Terms of appeal of your termination will be stated in your employment contract or company policies, for example who will arbitrate, how quickly you must respond, other documentation you must provide and whether you have a right to have a third part -- such as a lawyer -- present.
Request to see your personnel file if you do not have copies of any of the documentation. Your personnel file may also contain records of personal disputes and complaints that you have not been made aware of.
Compose a written appeal to your termination of employment addressing the reasons given by your employer. Address this to your company's human resources department. There may be an individual specified to handle employment disputes in larger companies, or in smaller companies, address to the director of human resources. Wait to be notified of the hearing date.
Present your case at the arbitration hearing, highlighting the strong aspects of your employment record and giving reasons why any problems were temporary or have otherwise been resolved. For example, you may present evidence that poor performance over a few months was due to the sickness of a family member that your employer was unaware of.
Negotiate and obtain an agreement in writing for any severance benefits if you do not get your job back. Part of your severance package will likely include forgoing any potential legal action against your employer. You may wish to consult a lawyer before signing a severance agreement.
Prepare to find alternative employment. Even if you are found to be in the right by arbitration or future legal action, your employer will only be obligated to compensate you for damages, not rehire you. An unexpected firing may come from a company with significant financial difficulties or poor management; find a more fulfilling opportunity elsewhere.
Obtain legal council if you have evidence that your firing was in violation of the law, your employment contract or public policy, or if your employer refuses to comply with any of the above requests.
- Exceptions to at-will employment are those for a definite term with no option for renewal or renegotiation; for example, contracting to be a school's janitor for only a single school year.
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