I sometimes get frantic calls from employees who’ve just been told they are going to be fired, but have been given the option of immediately resigning instead. “What should I do?”, they ask. I understand that uncertainty. Even obvious choices at this moment are obscured by the dense mental fog brought on by an unexpected firing.
The right choice in most cases is to accept the offer to resign. It usually will not prevent you from pursuing a claim, and in most cases will not affect your entitlement to unemployment compensation.
In a tough economy, finding another job is a Herculean task even under the best of circumstances. Listing the nature of your last departure as “Fired” creates an extra obstacle to reemployment. It’s like you’re a pole vaulter competing for the same prize as everyone else, but the bar for you has just been raised an extra foot. To drive the point home, here’s a response from an anonymous HR professional to a job-seeker’s online post asking how hiring officials view a candidate who was fired from their last job:
“I don’t think you can get a blanket answer for this one. Every company has different requirements. If you were applying where I work, I would look first at your qualifications and porftolio, and if I really liked what I saw but also saw that you’d been let go, I would bring you in for an interview to discuss the firing reason before I determined you weren’t qualified. That said, if you were one of multiple applicants who all had amazing qualifications, and I had limited time to interview, you’d probably be tossed out of the pile right away.” (emphasis added).
Here are some basic pointers in the event you find yourself in this situation. Keep in mind that the law is always changing, and it is always wise to consult an experienced employee-rights lawyer about your specific situation.
- If you’re not offered the option of resigning, ask for it. There are many benefits for your employer, too, in helping you find another job quickly.
- If you’re allowed to resign, decide whether a resignation letter serves a purpose. Sometimes it doesn’t. If you do one, keep it short. “Please accept this as my resignation effective [date]. Thank you.” is just fine.
- Ask whether resigning affects your entitlement to be paid for unused leave, or affects your rights in any other way. Read the employee handbook and other relevant policies, too.
- If you have an employment contract, review it with great care. Be sure you know how resigning might affect your rights under the agreement.
- Clarify the job reference you’ll be given. Ask if the employer is willing to give you a positive reference or, at bare minimum, a neutral reference. Ask who prospective employers should be told to call.
- Clarify whether you’re eligible for rehire. If not, ask whether this information will be disclosed to prospective employers.
- Ask if your employer will agree not to contest your claim for unemployment compensation benefits.