What are your rights if you’re laid off?

MINNEAPOLIS – It has been a tough road for the workers of big tech companies.

Facebook parent company Meta made the first big headline last November with 11,000 layoffs.

Then Amazon announced that it would lay off 18,000 workers.

Microsoft followed with 10,000 layoffs, while Google’s parent Alphabet said 12,000 employees would lose their jobs.

In 2023 alone, more than 234 tech companies laid off nearly 76,000 workers, according to Layoffs.fyi.

Are Certain Minnesota Industries Laying More Employees Than Others?

“We’ve seen a few larger companies maybe hiring aggressively or changing strategy to make some layoffs, but none within a particular industry,” said Kathy Northamer, district president of staffing agency Robert Half.

Hiring workers seems to be the most important step on the ground. A survey by Robert Half found that 60% of Minnesota respondents are expanding by adding new jobs, while 38% are trying to fill vacancies. But that’s not everyone’s reality.

“Despite record employment rates, we get calls from people affected by layoffs literally every day,” said Charles Horowitz, employment attorney at Halunen Law in Minneapolis.

If someone just received a notice of termination, what are the next steps?

“Typically, in a situation such as a layoff, job restructuring, or downsizing, an employer will provide the affected employee with a written severance proposal,” Horowitz said. “If you’re one of the small minority of employees who have an employment contract, that contract will set out what rights you have in relation to severance pay.”



Before accepting a severance package, Horowitz says workers should ask themselves:

* If other people in the company should be selected for dismissal

* If you are part of any class protected by law, including race, age, gender, disability, nationality, sexual orientation, religion

* If you have recently taken time off due to illness, including the birth or adoption of a child

“If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it’s important to consult an attorney,” he said.

There are also some important federal laws to be aware of. The first is the Work Adjustment and Retraining Notice Act (WARN Act). If you’re part of a mass layoff, the WARN Act requires employers to give workers 60 days’ notice before their job is axed.

Another question to analyze has to do with your age. It’s called the Pensions Act. It requires workers age 40 and older to receive special benefits over and above what is provided for in standard severance pay. It works as a safety net to ensure that older workers are not selected for layoffs because of their age.

Horowitz said it was an issue that his office had noticed.

“We are seeing a veritable wave of layoffs among older workers, particularly as workers approach retirement age because they tend to be more expensive. So there’s always the question of whether or not they were targeted because of their age,” he said.

If a Minnesotan loses his job immediately, he shouldn’t have to wait long for his pay.

“Minnesota law requires an employer to pay you your earned and unpaid wages within 24 hours, regardless of whether there is a two-week payment period,” Horowitz said, referring to Law 181.13.

If you are laid off, you should file for unemployment immediately. That’s because there’s a three-week wait before the first benefit check arrives.

For those who got their health insurance through their job and are laid off, you could be eligible for COBRA, which allows you to continue your coverage for you and your family for up to 18 months. Your other option is to purchase an individual health plan, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

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