9 important questions to ask when you’re being laid off (or fired)

Last updated: June 16, 2024
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Eleana Bowman
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9 important questions to ask when you’re being laid off (or fired)
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Some of the world’s largest companies announced significant layoffs in 2022.

Layoffs were particularly massive in the tech sector, where over 154,000 United States employees were let go in a year.

As a result, workers must ask the right questions when they’re fired so they can step out of the company with a full paycheck and an action plan of what to do next.

In this article, we’ll cover the top nine questions you need to ask when you’re laid off or fired, so you can understand the reason for your termination and your next steps to finding a new job.

Top 9 questions to ask when you’ve been fired

Below are some of the most important questions you can ask about job termination.

1. Why was I let go?

You need to make sure you weren’t unfairly dismissed.

In the U.S., most employment is “at will,” — meaning employers can fire an employee at any time, with or without a good reason. However, some laws protect employees from unfair dismissal. These include the following:

  • Discrimination: Employers can’t fire workers due to their gender, age, race, national origin, disability, genetics, or religion.

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  • Legitimate reporting: Employees can’t be laid off if they report unsafe working conditions to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

  • Legal time off: They can’t fire employees if they take time off to perform military services, serve jury duty, take medical leave, or similar circumstances.

Learn more about what wrongful termination is and what to do about it.

2. Can I appeal?

Sometimes, you could try to appeal your employer’s decision to fire you. You can write an appeal letter that explains your request. Your appeal letter should include the following information:

  • The current situation (why you’re being terminated)

  • Why you think the decision is wrong

  • What you’d like the new outcome to be

Your appeal letter is your chance to tell your side of the story to get your employer to reconsider and overturn their decision to fire you.

However, if your employer decides to deny the appeal, you could ask them if they can put you on probation instead. This approach could work if you were fired due to a lack of skills.

This way, you can explain that you’ll address these weaknesses during the probationary period and would appreciate a re-evaluation after the probationary period.

3. Can I resign instead of being fired?

If you’re laid off due to external reasons as opposed to your performance or actions, the company might agree for you to resign instead.

This will look better on your resume and make getting a new job easier.

However, doing so could risk your eligibility for unemployment benefits. So, you may ask your employer if they’d agree not to contest your unemployment claims if you resign. Approval requirements for unemployment benefits in the United States are as follows:

  • You earned a certain amount within the last 12–24 months (depending on where you live)

  • You worked consistently for the last 12–24 months

  • You’re looking for a new job

4. When’s my last day?

Find out if your layoff is effective immediately or if you need to work until the end of the month. It’s best to ask for a specific day so you and your employer are on the same page.

This answer will give you a good idea of your next steps and how long you’ll have to file for unemployment benefits.

If your employer wants you to stay until the end of the month, ask them what they’d like you to complete during this time.

  • Would they like you to complete a specific project?

  • Would they want you to train a new employee?

  • Would they like you to transfer all your work files?

Getting a clear understanding of what’s expected of you and getting the job done with a positive attitude could avoid you leaving on a sour note and burning any bridges.

5. When will I receive my last paycheck?

Knowing when you’ll get your last paycheck is essential since this will allow you to plan for moving forward. You can make short-term financial plans and create a budget that ensures you get through the weeks until you find a new job.

6. Will I get compensated for unused vacation time?

Depending on your company’s policy, you could be entitled to compensation for unused vacation time. Revisit your employer’s handbook if you’re unsure of your company’s policy. Don’t solely rely on what your employer or human resource manager says.

7. What happens to my bonuses and benefits?

Determine what’ll happen to your employee benefits. These include your healthcare coverage, 401(k), commissions, etc.

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Companies usually pay health insurance premiums in advance, meaning you’ll likely be covered for a period after your termination. Based on the policy, yours may last through the month, longer or shorter. Once you find a job, your new employer will likely move you to a different insurance provider.

You should also find out about your 401(k) options. In some cases, you may be able to leave the money where it is. In others, you’ll be required to move the savings to another retirement account — either an IRA or a new 401(k) when you find a job.

8. What does the company disclose during reference checks?

You may ask for a letter of recommendation. If you were fired due to reasons outside your control, such as budget cuts, your employer would likely give you a positive recommendation for future employers.

But if you were fired from your job due to your performance or misconduct, you won’t want them to mention this to future employers. So, find out if they’ll only note the dates of employment or the reason for your departure as well.

9. Will I be able to be rehired at a later date?

If you enjoyed working at the company and got laid off for reasons outside of your control, you may want to be rehired later. You could ask your employer if this is possible and whether they’d be willing to consider you if a new position opens up.

But don’t wait for them to contact and rehire you — you may be waiting for a long time.

If the company fired you due to poor performance, you can still ask your employer if they would rehire you after you’ve upskilled and are better equipped to perform.

Are you on the “do-not-rehire list”? Discover how to be removed from this list so you can find good jobs.

How to deal with job loss

Being fired or laid off can be highly discouraging and stressful. Here are some tips you can follow to handle your job loss better.

Take time to adjust

Be kind to yourself and give yourself adequate time to adjust. When a company fires you, feeling hurt and discouraged is natural. But learning from your mistakes is essential instead of beating yourself up.

Allow yourself time to grieve

There are different stages of grief. After losing your job, you’ll likely move through all or some of these stages:

  1. Denial

  2. Anger

  3. Bargaining

  4. Depression

  5. Acceptance

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Be aware of these stages, and understand that feeling these emotions is completely normal. Also, realize that your grief may look different from others’ grief. The key is to accept the reality of the situation and what you’re feeling, so you can work through it and move on.

Manage your loss of income and other benefits

You may need to make some changes to your lifestyle. Sometimes, when people get fired, they panic and make drastic decisions, such as selling their house or personal property, including their vehicles or furniture. Don’t take this step until it’s absolutely necessary.

Instead, you could consider making more minor changes and getting rid of unnecessary expenses, such as:

  • Canceling streaming services

  • Lowering your cellphone bill

  • Planning meals so you don’t spend too much on groceries or takeout

Improve your skills

If the company fired you due to a lack of skills, try improving those skills during your time of unemployment. Several education websites, such as Udemy and Skillshare, sell courses for extremely low prices.

For example, if your Microsoft Word skills need to improve, you could get a course to teach you the ins and outs of the program.

Find a new job today

You’ve asked all the questions and weren’t able to appeal. Now it’s time to accept the job loss and give yourself some time to adjust. You can improve your resume to land a job much easier. Then when you’re ready, you can look for a new job on Jobcase.

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Insert the type of job you’re looking for alongside your location for the best results. From there, Jobcase will provide you with a list of potential jobs that fit your criteria so you can find one best suited to your needs.

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Tiffany Vasquez
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Thank you so much for this. I am currently managing a team and myself through a lay-off and while I've been through it before many on my team haven't so I want to provide them with as much emotional and professional support as I can.

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Rachel Dube
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Crafter at Castle Roost

Ty for your helpful information I appreciate u

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