What to Do When You Are Fired or Forced to Resign

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When you are having issues at work, and the situation can't be resolved, you may be forced to resign as an alternative to being fired. What should you do if you are asked to resign? Is it better to resign and leave with a resignation on your resume or should you hold out and wait to be terminated?

Resigning vs. Getting Fired

There are several factors to consider when you resign versus being fired including eligibility for unemployment compensation, benefits, recommendations, a possibility of a severance package, what you can say in job interviews, and how the company describes your termination to prospective employers.

If you are asked to resign, you don't need to give an immediate response. Take some time to consider the alternatives before you decide to resign or wait to be fired. Here's information on deciding on whether you should quit before you get fired.

Options for Keeping Your Job

If you don't want to leave, there may be options for keeping your job. It can't hurt to ask whether there is anything you can do to stay on with the company. If there are performance issues, can a performance plan be implemented? Are there any work-related issues you can address? Can you be put on probation? Are there any other alternatives?

If there are no options other than resigning or getting terminated, the next step is to see if your resignation is negotiable. What is the company going to offer you, if anything, to get you to leave? Some people who have gotten hefty severance packages simply because they didn't just resign when they were asked to.

Know Your Rights

It's important to know what your employee rights are when you lose or are about to lose your job. When you're not sure about your rights, the best place to start is with the company Human Resources department.

Even if they are in the process of terminating your employment, they can answer questions; let you know what company benefits you are eligible for and can guide you through the process of leaving employment.

If you feel that you have been wrongfully terminated, discriminated against or haven't been treated according to the law or company policy, you can get assistance. The US Department of Labor, for example, has information on each law that regulates employment and advice on where and how to file a claim.

Your state labor department may also be able to assist. A labor lawyer can advise you, for a fee, and may be able to help negotiate with your employer. Here's information on your rights when your job is terminated and where to get help, if you need it.

Negotiating Terms

When you're forced to resign, you're going to have to leave your job one way or the other, but you may be able to negotiate your separation from employment. Since the company no longer wants you working for them, you may have somewhat of an advantage in the negotiations - unless you are about to be terminated for cause. Ask about collecting unemployment, severance pay, and the continuation of health insurance benefits.

It's important to find out whether you will be paid for unused vacation, sick and personal time if you resign - or if you are fired. It's also important to find out whether your health insurance benefits will continue. In some cases, employers will provide health insurance for a certain amount of time (30, 60 or 90 days, for example) after employment terminates.

Severance Packages

The company has no obligation to offer a severance package, however, depending on circumstances, a package may be offered, or you may be able to ask for severance. It certainly can't hurt to ask, and severance pay can help with expenses while you are seeking a new job. You may be able to negotiate continued health insurance benefits for a specific period of time. Also, the company may opt to allow you to collect unemployment and not contest your unemployment claim.

Collecting Unemployment

You may not be able to collect unemployment if you resign. If you're fired, depending on the circumstances, you may be eligible for unemployment. If you were fired because the job wasn't a good fit, because your position was terminated due to company layoffs or because of reasons like poor performance on the job, for example, you might qualify for unemployment benefits.

Getting References

References can be an issue when you are forced to resign. How is the company going to discuss your termination with prospective employers who check your references? If the company isn't going to give you a good reference, will they not give a reference at all?

Many companies only confirm dates of employment, job title, and salary. If that's the case, the circumstances of your termination of employment won't be mentioned by your previous employer.

What to Say During a Job Interview

Before you say why you resigned during a job interview, be sure that your response matches what your previous employer is going to say. It will be a hiring "red flag" if what you say doesn't mesh with what the company says.

Review sample interview answers you can tailor to fit your circumstances when you are asked why you resigned from your job. Be direct and focus your interview answer on the future, especially if your leaving wasn't under the best of circumstances.

Don't Blame Yourself

Finally, don't feel bad. In many cases, there is absolutely nothing you could have done to change the situation. Employees are forced to resign or fired every day, and once the company has made the decision that you need to go, there is little you can do to change their mind. Instead, look at this an opportunity to move on and to start over in a job that is a better fit.

The bottom line when it comes to deciding on whether to resign is that it's important to get the best deal you can and to try to leave on terms that don't negatively impact your future employment prospects.

The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.