What Every Employee Needs to Know
Terminated employees usually don’t seek legal counsel until they are fired, when the need is most apparent and any hope for preserving the employment relationship is gone. While this is understandable, it is better to seek legal counsel whenever difficult situations arise at work, and before any termination decision is made.
Regardless of when you secure legal counsel, the following termination checklist should be followed in responding to difficult situations at work.
- Document – EVERYTHING – If Possible. This can take the form of detailed notes, written communications to the employer (usually the HR department) about concerns/questions, and even recording difficult disciplinary or termination meetings. Ask for records concerning any decision(s) the employer makes in this process.
- Get it In Writing – When raising complaints/concerns about treatment in the workplace, it is important that, when possible, these complaints/concerns are made in writing. The complaint should be fact-specific, written without hyperbole or invective, and should identify the nature of the possible legal concerns. For instance, if you feel that discrimination and/or retaliation is occurring, state this clearly and be prepared to fully participate in any subsequent investigation. If these complaints are made orally, document the detail (what was stated, to whom, where and when, etc.)
- Ask Questions – Feel free to ask questions in this process, and to understand what, if any, policies or practices apply to this situation.
- Secure Your Personnel Records – Make a written request for your personnel records – which must be provided to you, without any cost, within a short period of time after any termination decision is made. Even before any termination decision, you have a right to review these records, which should be exercised.
- If Fired, Request the Reason in Writing – In the event you are terminated, make a written request for the reason for this decision, and cite the Minnesota statute requiring this truthful reason to be provided within seven working days. See Minn. Stat. §181.933.
- Don’t Violate Document Retention Policies – Be careful when retaining documents from your employment, especially if those documents are labelled confidential or the company otherwise has a policy prohibiting retention or use of company records outside the workplace. If it does, don’t take these documents in violation of these policies, but instead catalogue all documents that could be useful in the future, to be sought by counsel at a later time.
- Unemployment – Promptly file for unemployment compensation, even if you are being told that you are being forced to resign rather than being terminated.
- Do Not Sign a Release – Don’t sign anything that purports to release any legal claims stemming from your termination or the events preceding your termination. If any such document is provided to you, you will have time (usually 21 days) to consult with legal counsel before signing.
- Prepare a Comprehensive Timeline – Take the time to prepare a chronology of the events that concern you about your treatment, and identify, by name and job title if possible, managers involved in the decisions you may challenge. Identify in the same level of detail any other employees who were either treated more favorably than you, or may be helpful witnesses to your potential claims. This can include both current and former employees.
The above steps are best taken with counsel having been retained, but even in the absence of securing legal counsel pre-termination, these items on the termination checklist will be extremely helpful in allowing legal counsel you retain post-termination to quickly evaluate the potential legal claims to assert, and discuss and develop with you the right strategy in advocating for you.
The attorneys at Schaefer Halleen will be prepared to counsel you at every step of the above-process and beyond, and there is no fee for initial screening calls. We can efficiently determine if your legal rights may have been violated. Contact us today.