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Fired from my job but offered a severance. Can I accept the severance package and still file for benefits?

by Rachel
(California)

I have a two part question about california unemployment benefits and my right to claim. I was fired from my job of two years last week for not meeting one of my activity tracking categories. My company told me that I would get a severance offer in the mail. Does accepting this offer mean that I won't be eligible for unemployment benefits? And does being fired for performance issues mean that I won't be able to collect as well. I have documentation showing that my numbers have been the same for the whole two years, and that my manager never complained about my numbers for the first year of employment. In fact they only made an issue of it after I made a complaint to our HR department about negative comments I was receiving from a male co worker who also happened to be my managers friend.



Hi Rachel,

No, a severance package doesn't prohibit you from filing for unemployment although it may cancel benefits, but California has some very specific rules regarding that.

Happen to have a copy of the complaint you filed?

I would say what happened to you is retaliation for filing a complaint .. and that is a no-no for an employer to do. It's also something a lawyer could work with to get a bigger severance package.

Have you read the severance agreement .. I'm sure if you accept it you will be signing something that says you won't sue.

And yes, there is always a possibility for getting benefits when fired for performance .. especially if it's a trumped up reason for termination for some other reason .. like filing a complaint against a male co-worker.

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Jan 21, 2010
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No severance offer yet.
by: Anonymous

Wow, thanks for your speedy response.
I don't have any documentation from my HR department that states the specifics of my complaint, However I do have numerous email back and forths that I forwarded to my personal email account throughout this ordeal. I do have an email that I sent to our in office HR person after our meetings which provides an overview of the complaint that I made as well as a wrap up of our meetings which I requested to have added to my HR file. I Cc'd my personal email on this as well. I requested a copy of my file a few months back and found that the letter was never added and so I emailed our in office HR person again and asked why they hadn't done so and repeated my request to have it entered into my file. I never received a response back.
As for the severance package, I have not seen it yet, but I was informed that there would be a waiver in it for me to sign and return when I was let go. I assumed it would be something about my not sueing the company. I was only fired last Thursday,and they told me at the time that our corporate office was still writing up my severance offer, but didn't give me a timeline for when I would receive it.
I know that the reason for which I was fired was in fact a trumped up charge. I have had many of my co workers contact me since being let go to tell me that they missed different areas of their activity as well and are still employed. I have even collected each of the activity sheets that they turned in. However I worked for one of fortune 500's top 100 companies and feel like any lawyer that I could afford probably wouldn't be able to make a dent in the collection of lawyers that my former company employs.



It is wonderful that you have been documenting and cc'ing yourself. If this ever comes to an unemployment hearing .. you have it .. and you have the ability to subpoena documents.

Now let's talk a little about retaliation.

In 2009 EEOC retaliation charges totaled 36 percent of all EEOC complaints. First time ever that type of complaint exceeded race discrimination claims.

You need to file a complaint .. now and trust me .. they want you to sign that wavier before you talk to an attorney .. because I doubt any self respecting employment attorney would advise you to do so .. not when you have documentation.

When you filed that HR complaint, you were exercising and employee right which basically puts you into a "protected class". The reason retaliation after doing something like this is very frowned upon and why they want the wavier .. is if employers get away with this .. it creates an atmosphere which causes other employees to be fearful of using their rights.

Please tell me you have at least contacted a lawyer just to find out what your options are here. An attorney can work with what you've got.

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