Job Loss Checklist

Losing a job can be a troubling and stressful experience.  We've put together a list of things to consider if you've been terminated.

  1. Listen. In the termination meeting, listen carefully to what your employer has to say.  Ask questions, but be respectful.  Record the meeting if you have the opportunity (but be sure to obey any policies your employer may have on recording in the workplace).  
  2. Don't burn bridges. Although you may feel like your termination was unfair, wrong, or even illegal, don't burn bridges with your prior employer.  When your employer informs you of your termination, try to be as respectful as possible and don't make a scene.  Don't give your employer any ammunition for the future.   
  3. Take some time. Losing your job can be unsettling.  Take some time (even if it's just a day) to gather your thoughts, regroup, and plan for the future.
  4. Healthcare. If your employer offers COBRA, you may be able to continue your healthcare coverage for up to 18 months after your termination.  COBRA applies to employers with 20 or more employees, and your employer should provide you with a notice explaining your rights under the law.  You have 60 days to elect coverage and if you do so, the coverage will be retroactive back to the date of your termination.  COBRA coverage can be expensive.  If you've got other options (like a spouse's healthcare plan or coverage under the Affordable Care Act), consider those as well, but know that you typically only have 30 days after you've lost your own coverage to obtain coverage under another plan. 
  5. Retirement Benefits. Ask your Human Resources or Benefits Coordinator for a Summary Plan Description (SPD) for any retirement benefits (401K, pension, profit-sharing, etc.) you had with your employer.  The SPD should provide information on what options you have in the event of job loss. 
  6. Finances. Take a look at your financial situation and cut back on unessential expenses.  Cut your cable cord, cancel your gym membership, and stop eating out. 
  7. Contact your Creditors. Call your creditors and let them know you've lost your job.  Often, they will work with you to find a payment schedule that works.  Consider unemployment insurance for car and mortgage payments.  You may be able to defer some loan payments, like student loans, until you get a new job.
  8. Unemployment Benefits. File for unemployment.  Be aware that any unemployment benefits you are entitled to will not begin until after the end of any severance period.
  9. Job Search.  Networking is the best way to find a new job, so polish your resume and start contacting friends, family, and others who may be able to help you.
  10. Legal. If you believe you have a claim against your prior employer, gather your timesheets, pay stubs, performance reviews, and any other documents you have that could be pertinent to your claims.  Sit down and make a detailed timeline of all relevant events (be sure to cover the who, what, when, where, and whys of how your termination came about).  This will be very useful for any attorney you decide to contact. 

You can find more resources here, here, and here.  If you feel as though your termination occurred because you experienced illegal discrimination or spoke out about illegal discrimination, contact us to talk about your options today.

An Ice Cold Pint of ... Age Discrimination?


Nearly everyone who watches TV is familiar with the "Most Interesting Man in the World" commercials from Dos Equis beer.  For nearly a decade, these commercials have opened with witty lines about the man's good looks, charm, and all around appeal and have ended with the line, "Stay thirsty, my friends."

Until a few months ago, the Most Interesting Man in the World (it feels like that deserves capitalized letters) was Jonathan Goldsmith, aged 77.  In March, Dos Equis sent him on a one-way trip to Mars.  Dos Equis denied that Mr. Goldsmith "aged out" of the role, but the company spokesperson admitted that the change was made in an effort to attract younger beer drinkers. 

In the past few weeks, Dos Equis announced that it has decided to replace Mr. Goldsmith with 41-year-old French actor Augustin Legrand. 

Does Mr. Goldsmith have a case?

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") prohibits discrimination against employees who are over 40 years old and work for employers with 20 or more employees.  Several years ago, the Supreme Court upped the ante on what a plaintiff has to show to establish age discrimination, meaning that an employee must show that age was the reason for the adverse employment action (here, the trip to Mars), and not just one of several factors behind the employer's decision.

Despite the fact that these cases are more challenging to prove than other types of discrimination cases, employers are still not allowed to favor younger workers over older ones.  An individual claiming age discrimination must show that he's over 40, that he has suffered an adverse employment action, that he was qualified for his job, and that he was replaced by a substantially younger employee.  Mr. Goldsmith can check all those boxes, meaning that the burden of proof shifts to Dos Equis to produce a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for Mr. Goldsmith's trip to Mars.  The company has failed to do so.

When asked why Mr. Goldsmith was being forced out, Dos Equis' spokesperson stated:

Mr. Katz added that the meaning of the word “interesting” has “obviously evolved over time” and that millennials in particular “value different things” than other generations. To underscore that, Dos Equis said it had conducted a survey in February of about 1,000 men ages 21 to 35, in which 84 percent of respondents said that “what is interesting today is different from what was interesting a decade ago.”

Read the full article here.  (Notably, Dos Equis not only discriminates against its older workers, but also apparently focuses its research only on male beer drinkers.)  If Mr. Goldsmith were interested in pursuing an age discrimination claim, there's a strong chance a jury would find that Dos Equis discriminated against him on the basis of his age. 

Stay thirsty, I guess.



Can I say that at work?

Maybe.  Everyone has an opinion on politics, and given the current political environment, discussions of politics are getting more heated than usual.  The First Amendment gives you the right to free speech, but that right doesn't necessarily extend to everything you say in the workplace. 

While some states have laws prohibiting employers from taking an adverse action against an employee based on the employee's political affiliation, Georgia isn't one of those states.  So, private employers in this state have a lot of leeway in controlling or punishing political speech on the clock. 

However, given the nature of some key political issues this year (immigration, separation of church & state, anti-terrorism measure, etc.), some political discussions can skirt the line of anti-discrimination laws.  

Here are some other things to remember in our current political landscape:

  1. Generally speaking, the First Amendment only protects your right to free speech without interference by the government, but not anybody else. 
  2. Your employer (if you work for a private company) can likely prohibit or restrict political conversation in the workplace while you're on the clock. 
  3. Your employer can't control what you say off the clock (or on social media), but remember that what you post online is public and may cause repercussions at work.
  4. You have the right to engage in "concerted activity" to better the terms and conditions of your employment (thanks to Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act), and this right exists whether you're part of a unionized workplace or not.  You must be either acting together with a coworker or on behalf of your coworkers to be covered by this provision. 

There are a few other instances where your speech may be protected at work.  If you're objecting to illegal activity in the workplace, you may be a protected whistleblower.  And if you're speaking out against illegal discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, pregnancy, or some other protected class, you are protected against retaliation by federal law. 

Contact us to discuss your rights in the workplace. 

Word to the Wise: Don't Retaliate in Your Job Ads


This morning someone sent me a Facebook job ad.  It's for a Mexican restaurant in Macon, Georgia, and the folks in charge at that restaurant are apparently very concerned about litigious employees.  In fact, they are so concerned that they included "No lawsuits against your former employers!!" as one of the job requirements.  No, seriously.  Here's the post:

I hate to break it to Margaritas, but that's not okay.  Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and several other workplace laws extend protections to applicants as well as employees.  That means that employers may not retaliate against applicants who have engaged in "protected activity" as defined by those statutes, and "protected activity" would include filing a lawsuit. 

Not only is this a likely violation of several federal anti-discrimination laws, it also should be a red flag for potential employees.  If this employer was truly concerned about providing a non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory environment, an applicant's prior litigation history shouldn't be a concern.  

Many of our clients worry about the effects of a lawsuit on their future employment prospects, and this ad sadly shows why they are sometimes justified in those concerns.  Workplace laws are in place to prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.  Employees should not be afraid to step up and protect their right to work in a fair and non-discriminatory environment. 

Here's the full Facebook post:

Whether you're looking to work for an employer like Margaritas (which I don't recommend, but hey everyone needs a job), or your current employer has retaliated against you, it's best to talk to an attorney.  Contact us to talk about your workplace rights today.