What to Do When You Are Fired or Forced to Resign

Employee presenting resignation letter
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When you are having issues at work, and the situation cannot be resolved, you may be forced to resign as an alternative to being fired. What should you do if you are asked to resign? In this situation, you will need to consider the consequences of resigning versus termination and their impact on your current lifestyle, as well as career goals.

Resigning vs. Getting Fired

There are several factors to consider when you resign, including eligibility for unemployment compensation, benefits, recommendations, a possible severance package, what you can say at 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 the time to consider the alternatives to resigning before you get fired. The following information will help you decide 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 questions such as whether there is anything you can do to stay on with the company. If there are performance issues, ask if a performance plan can be implemented, perhaps for a probationary period. Ask if there are any work-related issues that can be addressed, or are there any other alternatives to being let go.

If there are no options other than resigning or being terminated, the next step is to find out if your resignation is negotiable. What is the company going to offer you, if anything, to get you to leave? Some people receive large severance packages simply because they don't resign immediately upon request.

Before resigning, make sure you research the alternatives to ensure a smooth transition to your next job.

Know Your Rights

It's important to understand your employee rights when you lose or are about to lose your job. If you're not sure about your rights, the best place to start is with the human resources (HR) department. Even if they are in the process of terminating your employment, they can help you transition out of the company by answering your questions, as well as explaining your eligibility for any continued company benefits.

If you feel that you have been wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, or unfairly treated according to the law or company policy, you can get assistance. For example, the U.S. Department of Labor 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 provide assistance. A labor lawyer can advise you, for a fee, and may be able to help negotiate with your employer. It's important to know 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 at some point, but you may be able to negotiate your separation from the company. As the company no longer wishes to continue your employment, you may have an advantage in the negotiations—unless you are about to be terminated for cause. Inquire about receiving unemployment, severance pay, and continued health insurance benefits.

Also ask whether you can be paid for unused vacation, sick and personal time if you resign—or if you are fired; and whether your health insurance benefits can be extended for a given time period. In some cases, employers will provide health insurance for a set time—30, 60 or 90 days—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. You may be concerned about how the company might discuss your termination with prospective employers who check references. If the company isn't going to give you a good reference, will they choose to not give a reference?

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 syncs with your previous employer's response in case they choose to provide one. 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 get 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 minds. Instead, look at this as an opportunity to move on and work in a job that is a better fit.

Being asked to resign may not be a reflection of your work. It may be due to weaknesses at the company, such as inadequate training, lack of communication, or inexperienced management.

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.