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Being Laid Off Vs. Fired


You depend on your job to provide the income you need, which your loved ones depend on you for as well. Few people are in a position to be without a job, which means that getting fired or being laid off can be an extremely stressful position. Unfortunately, getting fired and being laid off is sometimes an unavoidable part of having a job. While these might sound the same and will both leave you without employment, there are important differences between the two that every employee should know. However, even if you’re an at-will employee, as many in New York City are, you still have rights related to being laid off vs. fired. 

After losing your job, you might think there’s nothing more that you can do other than find a new one. At Brown Kwon & Lam, we want all NYC employees to understand what rights they’re entitled to and help fight to protect them. Learn more about how being laid off is different from being fired and what rights you have in each situation. 

What It Means to Be Laid Off

It can be difficult to not take losing your job personally. However, when an employee is laid off, the issue is typically on the employer’s end. Layoffs often don’t reflect on the quality or performance of the employee. Many layoffs occur because a company needed to downsize, cut costs, or because the company needed to restructure its operations. Because of this, it’s often better for an employee to be able to say they were laid off when searching for new employment, as it shows they weren’t let go due to any fault of their own.

Employee Rights Regarding Layoffs

In some cases, employees are entitled to receive notice of mass layoffs in advance to allow them the time to find new employment or to enter training programs. These rights are provided through the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. New York State also has its own WARN Act that provides additional protections in the event of mass layoffs. Advanced notice isn’t always required when layoffs occur, so it’s important to understand what your employee rights are during a layoff.

Discrimination and retaliation also cannot be the reason this employee was selected for the layoff. For example, if only older employees are laid off, there could be suspicions of age discrimination, which would be illegal. 

What It Means to Be Fired

When an employee is fired, their position is typically still required by the company, but the company decided to terminate that one specific employee. If you’re an at-will employee, your employer has the right to fire you for any reason at any time, so long as it is not an illegal reason. Employers are also not required to give you a reason for your termination. Because of this, an employee may have never given their employer any real reason to fire them, but they can still be terminated. 

Employee Rights Regarding Terminations

Although at-will employment means you can be fired for any reason at any time, this doesn’t mean you give up your right to be free of discrimination or retaliation. These are illegal in all aspects of employment, including terminating an employee’s employment. Your employment contract or severance agreement may have also provided you with certain rights that you’re entitled to. 

NYC Employment Lawyers Who Can Help Protect Your Rights

At Brown Kwon & Lam, we know how important your job and income are. While losing a job is something many of us will experience at some point, there isn’t always anything you can do about it. However, if you’ve experienced a workplace violation and have suffered due to it, there may be actions you can take to get justice.

Knowing what to do to protect the employee rights you’re entitled to can be difficult, but an experienced New York City employment attorney can help. Contact Brown Kwon & Lam today if you believe your employer violated your rights.