Job Termination and the Rights of Employees in the United States

As of the end of March 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2009) reported an increase in the unemployment rate with an additional 694,000 individuals losing their jobs to raise the total number of unemployment people to 13. 2 million. These numbers represent an unemployment rate of 8. 5 percent representing an increase by 3. 4 percent. Fifty percent of the recently unemployed individual lost their jobs in just the last four months. Most of these people became unemployed in the last four months due to cost cutting measures, closures, and other reasons or completed a contractual or temporary job without renewal.

Many of the individuals recently unemployed also face long-term unemployment due to limited job opportunities. The rise in unemployment cuts across age, gender and race although with varying rates of increase. With majority of the recent unemployment increase due to job termination, this highlights the importance of understanding employee rights in case of job termination on both the part of employers and employees. A thorough understanding of employee rights by employers would minimize litigation. Employees undergoing job termination could also ensure or secure their rights.

Job Termination Job termination is the general term referring to the ending of employment relations. This could happen in three ways. First is through the initiative of the employee also called voluntary termination. This form of job termination is positive because the usual reason is movement to a better employment position such as finding a new job. Second is through the initiative of the employer also called involuntary termination. This constitutes the negative form of job termination because the employees affected would not have terminated the employment on their own volition.
This form of job termination involves the most issues and supports the importance of employee rights. Involuntary job termination can happen in two ways. One is though dismissal or firing for cause. The other is layoff or redundancy usually through economic causes affecting the business. Third is through mutual termination that involves the agreement of both parties such as the conclusion of employment contract, compulsory retirement, or forced resignation. (Werhane, Radin, & Bowie, 2004) Rights of Employees in Case of Job Termination
The rights of employees in case of job termination depend on the conditions and terms of the employment contract and applicable statutory provisions. Regardless of the manner through which job termination happens, the conditions and terms of the employment contract applies, provided the contract is valid. Statutory provisions also apply even if not explicitly mentioned in the contract. The rights of employees fall under three broad categories. Job termination for just cause is one right of employees especially in case of involuntary termination.
Just cause means valid reasons for terminating an employee such as poor performance or misconduct for firing an employee or financial troubles of a business due to economic recession for layoff. Reasons comprising just cause for termination are in the contract. Just cause also refers to the selection of employees for termination in case of layoff. Labor laws provide for the operation of non-discrimination of employees and equal opportunity. These mean that the company terminating employees should have objective criteria for selecting the employees to let go and not arbitrary reasons such as termination due to gender or race.
(Newton & Kleiner, 2002) Objective standards could be the last-in-first-out policy or performance based policy. Sufficient notice is also another right of employees. Again, the period of notice regardless of the means of job termination depends on the employment contract, which usually requires two-weeks notice based on standard practice. In the case of layoff, the legislation on worker adjustment provides for a mandatory 60-day notice for companies with more than 100 workers. (Werhane et al.
, 2004) Sufficient notice is a right because this acts as an equitable measure especially for employees experiencing involuntary termination. The period of notice would give employees time to find a new job and settle work-related obligations with the company. This would also allow the employer time to find a replacement or settle its obligations to employees. Pay and benefits constitute another right of employees. Employees are entitled to their final paycheck covering all working days from the day after the last paycheck to the last day of employment.
The period for giving the last paycheck could be immediately in case of dismissal or in the next pay schedule for resignation and layoff. Employees experiencing layoff could also receive severance pay depending on the provisions of the employment contract. This could come through a severance package that includes a certain lump sum amount such as one or two months pay, outplacement arrangements, and health insurance. Federal labor law also provides for the continuation of health insurance even after job termination as well as unemployment insurance and benefits.
Some state laws also provide unemployment benefits for specific groups such as those with disabilities. (Steward & Botello, 2008) Since these are rights, employees can assert their entitlement to these rights by exacting the obligation of employers. In case of violation, employees can also file their grievances, such as wrongful termination, in court or via alternative dispute resolution. Conclusion Employees’ rights are paramount especially with the widespread job termination occurring in the United States.
The rights of employees find basis on the conditions and terms of the employment contract as well as provisions of federal and state labor laws. Job termination could be voluntary, involuntary or mutual and these have varying implications on employees’ rights. The basic rights of employees regardless of the type of termination include just cause for termination, sufficient notice, and pay and benefits. By knowing these rights, employees can ensure equitable and fair processes and outcomes from job termination. References Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2009). The employment situation: March 2009.
Retrieved April 30, 2009, from http://www. bls. gov/news. release/empsit. nr0. htm Newton, D. E. , & Kleiner, B. H. (2002). Termination at will vs. termination for just cause: Where are we today?. Managerial Law, 44(1/2), 75-80. Steward, D. , & Botello, S. (2008). Back pay and front pay calculations in employment termination cases: Accounting for re-employment and mitigation efforts. Retrieved April 30, 2009, from http://ssrn. com/abstract=1218642 Werhane, P. H. , Radin, T. J. , & Bowie, N. E. (2004). Employment and employee rights. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

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