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What To Do When You Get Laid Off

What To Do When You Get Laid Off

You just got laid off. Now what? First off, don't sign anything until you read this!

June 25, 2024

Daniella Flores

There are many reasons why a layoff happens. Your employer could be downsizing, restructuring, or going through other operational changes. We’ve seen lots of layoffs recently with technology companies, but it can happen within any company!


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So, what can you even do when you get laid off? 

Layoffs are emotional and you’ll need some time to process, but it’s important to stay professional throughout the process. Sit with those emotions and feel your feelings, but don’t stay there. 

Follow these steps for what to do next.

Key points:

  • There are laws in place that protect workers’ rights in a layoff.
  • Get all of the details about your layoff in writing before you sign anything.
  • You may be entitled to a severance package, continuation of benefits, and unemployment.
  • Revisit your finances and adjust your budget to account for the loss of income.
  • Prepare a few things to re-enter the job market with, such as recommendation letters, resume and LinkedIn updates, and connect with your professional network.
  • Take it day-by-day as you handle the aftermath of your layoff and search for a new job.


Know Your Rights & Revisit Your Contract

Yes, employees have rights – even during a layoff! We reached out to retired employment attorney, Delyanne Barros, to help us get a little more acquainted with what rights you may or may not have. 

After hearing the unsavory news of your layoff, expect a meeting request from human resources. It’s most likely to go over the details of the layoff and to ask for your signature. 

Barros says that employees should not sign anything before talking to an attorney. “Many employers will try to pressure you to sign a severance agreement or waiver on the spot. The best thing to do is to take it with you and say that you need to look it over carefully and that you will promptly get back to them,” says Barros.


Barros recommends that employees get familiar with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. “Most states in the US are at-will states which means that an employer can fire for any reason or none at all. However, there are specific laws that apply to certain employers when conducting mass layoffs. The WARN Act requires employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60 days notice of any mass layoffs.” 

To find whether an employer has issued a WARN notice or not, a simple google search can help. ”An employee can look up whether their employer has issued a WARN notice by googling ‘Warn notice’ plus their state. Many states also have mini-WARN Acts that provide additional protections for employees at smaller companies,” she says.

Employees’ rights outside of the WARN Act can get a little tricky, but Barros says to check your employment contract to see if it outlines any specific benefits in case of a layoff, and to reach out to the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA) to find an employment lawyer to work with.

Request a “Layoff Letter”

Your company can supply a confirmation letter, or “layoff letter”, that states that your position is being terminated. Ask them to include reasons for the layoff, the effective date of termination, date of your last paycheck, and details about any severance package or benefits that you’re entitled to.

Having this letter gives you official documentation of your layoff, which may come in handy when applying for unemployment benefits and future job searches. It may be necessary if there are any disputes or legal issues related to the layoff.

Understand Your Severance Package


If you’re entitled to a severance package, lucky you! That will be your lifeline after your final paycheck – so don’t overlook it. It’s best to review all the details with a member of human resources so you fully understand your severance package and if it’s fair or not.

Negotiation is the name of the game with severances. Just like negotiating salary during a job offer, severance packages can also be negotiated. Barros says this is where an employment lawyer also comes in handy, but many people hesitate to reach out to one because they think they’re only useful when planning to sue an employer. “However, I coached many clients behind-the-scenes during severance negotiations or negotiated on their behalf if they preferred it,” she says.

Barros advises employees to “consult with an employment attorney in their state before they engage in severance negotiations. Most attorneys will offer a free consultation and may provide some guidance during that meeting.”

Employees wanting to speak with an employment lawyer should check NELA’s referral directory online. 

Ask About Benefits

You should always negotiate. Layoffs are no exception. Similar to negotiating benefits during a job offer, go over your current benefits with human resources to see if compensation is warranted. 

Even if your benefit information is included in the layoff letter, discuss the specifics with human resources so you don’t have any unexpected surprises later on. Ask about health coverage changes, including the official end date of your employer-sponsored health plan and how to sign up for Continuation of Health Coverage (COBRA)

But what about unused paid time off? You can absolutely get compensated for those if the company is able to include it.

Look At Options to Continue Healthcare Coverage

Depending on your employer, you may be able to sign up for COBRA to continue your health coverage. The time period for the coverage continuation usually falls around 18 months, but you’ll have to pay the full premium in addition to administration fees.


Another option is looking at alternative health insurance options on the Healthcare Marketplace, or joining your spouse’s health plan. 

Review Your 401(k) & Prepare for a 401(k) Rollover

Your 401(k) is 100% yours and won’t go anywhere when you’re laid off. Employers will either keep it where it is, or transfer it to another 401(k) provider or Individual Retirement Account (IRA) of their choosing. 

This is where 401(k) rollovers come in. It’s a good idea to rollover your 401(k) after your last day of employment so you aren’t at the mercy of the company’s choices. When rolling over a 401(k), there’s the option of transferring it to an IRA of your choosing. We recommend Capitalize to easily do this for you for free - which is one less headache for you.


Ask Your Boss for a Letter of Recommendation

You need as many resources on your side as possible when you reenter the job market. This is where your boss can help!


Set up a quick 1-on-1 with your boss during your last weeks or months at your job to see if they can write a letter of recommendation for you and if you can use them as a reference. Another option is asking them if they can fill out a recommendation for you on LinkedIn to help your profile attract recruiters.

File for Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits are available to laid off employees if your employer contributed to the state’s unemployment insurance program. Payments from unemployment benefits, and its duration, will depend on your state. 

Visit the U.S. Department of Labor website to find your state and file for unemployment benefits.

Revisit Your Finances & Adjust Your Budget

Now that you’ve lost your primary source of income, it’s time to review your finances. Log into your different accounts including your checking, savings, and any investment accounts to take stock of your current financial situation. 

Re-adjust your budget and cut any expenses you can. If you’ve saved an emergency fund, determine how much of it you want to use and how you can rework your budget to accommodate it.

Update Your Resume & LinkedIn


It’s probably been awhile since you’ve updated your resume and LinkedIn. Many of us forget about them the longer we stay at one job. It’s time to update and revamp both to help you stand out when applying for jobs.

Add information about your most recent job to your resume. Update it to include not only what you did, but also include the impact and results of your contributions. Then update your information on LinkedIn, including your past role and the skills used in that role. It’s also helpful to add keywords in your LinedIn headline and select that you’re “Open to work” on your profile.

Tap Into Your Network

Your network is one of the most valuable resources when searching for a new job. Reach out to past colleagues on LinkedIn or other platforms, and any recruiters you’ve had contact with in the past.

If you’re in any local networking groups, such as a women’s networking group or alumni organization, reconnect with them and see what events are happening near you or virtually. Online groups, such as career-focused communities on social media, can also be helpful when building a professional network.

Really Think About Where You Want to Go From Here


Before diving head first back into a job search, ask yourself what you really want to do from this point on. Do you want to work for a company in the same sector? Do you want the same role? 

Also think about how much you want to get paid and what sort of benefits you’re looking for in your next job. Our Salary Database and free Market Research Guide can help when setting your market salary range. 

However, most people need a new job immediately to replace the loss of their primary income – especially when they don’t have an emergency fund to fall back on. You might have to charge right into a job search. If this is you, still think about what you really want to do. That next job isn’t going to be forever and if you find something better down the line, don’t be afraid to take it!

Take Care of What Matters Most – Yourself

Job hunting is exhausting. Take it day-by-day and know that you aren’t alone. It’s important to have some sort of structure in your days with a daily routine. Add some much-needed self care and set realistic expectations in your job search to promote a positive outlook. 

Please, please, please ask for help if you need it, whether that’s spending time with your friends to free your mind, working with a life or career coach, or reaching out to a mental health professional. There are people out there that can help you through this.

That wraps it up for this week. Until next time, stay awesome, stay strong, and keep advocating for yourself no matter what! I’m Daniella, a writer, engineer, and creator of I Like to Dabble and Remote Work Bestie - my blog and podcast for leveling up your money, career, and side hustles. I’m extremely passionate about workers' rights and financial freedom, so it’s a pleasure to be able to bring you this type of content through the Salary Transparent Street blog (thank you for the opportunity, Hannah!) You can also follow me on Instagram, TikTok, Linkedin, and Twitter. Chat soon!

If this guide helps you improve your negotiation skills, let us know! Send us an email ➡️ hello@salarytransparentstreet.com

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