What to Do After Being Laid Off in California

Since COVID-19 struck in 2020, the American job market has undergone some drastic changes. From the “quiet quitting” phenomenon to staggering nationwide layoffs, employers and employees alike are struggling to stay afloat in our current economy.

Sadly, many U.S. employees have experienced the sting of undeserved rejection after being laid off during the pandemic. In 2021, there were more than 17 million layoffs in the U.S. alone. Sadly, the number of unemployed Americans who have lost their jobs due to COVID is expected to increase in 2023.

If you were laid off as a result of COVID-19, you may be wondering what to do next. The injustice of losing a job through no fault of your own can be difficult to comprehend, let alone find a solution.

The perpetuation of these layoffs into 2023 has made it difficult for many U.S. workers to put food on the table and provide for their families in the current economy, which begs the question: How can laid-off Americans get back on their feet and achieve the financial stability they rightfully deserve?

Keep reading to learn how you can help yourself and your loved ones obtain peace and economic security in this difficult season.

Layoffs vs. Termination: What’s the Difference?

To understand what steps to take after being laid off as a U.S. employee, it’s important to first understand how layoffs differ from being fired or terminated according to federal and state laws.

A layoff occurs when an employer lets employees go as a result of circumstances beyond the company’s control, such as internal restructuring, budget cuts, or a merger (or, in this case, a global pandemic). On the contrary, termination occurs as a direct result of an employee’s actions, whether it be insubordination, misconduct, or the inability to perform their role effectively.

The difference between being laid off and getting fired is foundational to an unemployed person's next steps, particularly unemployment compensation. Those who are laid off may qualify for unemployment benefits while fired employees may not.

Regardless of why an employer conducts layoffs, it’s essential for U.S. workers to know and assert their employee rights under California law.

Is Severance Pay Required in California?

Unfortunately, California employers aren’t legally prohibited from letting workers go should the company finds itself in dire economic straits. However, employees are entitled to receive an adequate notice (no less than 60 days)of the layoff under federal and state law.

Federal WARN Act

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act is a federal law that requires employers that meet certain criteria to provide advance notice in the event of mass layoffs. Under federal and state regulations, California companies are required to provide employees with at least 60 days’ notice prior to a mass layoff.

The federal WARN Act applies to companies with:

  1. At least 100 full-time employees; or
  2. At least 100 employees who work a minimum combined total of 4,000 hours per week.

Keep in mind that while the federal WARN Act applies to companies with 100 or more employees, California state law reduces this requirement to any industrial or commercial facility with at least 75 employees.

A qualifying “mass layoff” entails a reduction at a single employment site of at least 500 full-time employees (or 50-499 employees if laid-off workers comprise 33% or more of the active workforce). Mass layoffs also apply to those that occur in stages over a 90-day period.

California WARN Act

In California, the same stipulations under the federal WARN apply to the following:

  • A mass layoff that results in job loss for 50+ employees in a 30-day period;
  • The closing of a commercial or industrial facility with at least 75 employees; and/or
  • The relocation of a facility with 75+ employees to a location 100 or more miles away from the original worksite.

Generally, there are 3 things that laid-off California workers should keep in mind regarding their employee rights, as your employer is legally obligated to:

  1. Give you at least 60 days’ notice of the layoff;
  2. Provide your final paycheck within 72 hours of your last day of work; and
  3. Honor the conditions and terms of the severance package in your employee handbook or contract, if applicable.

5 Steps to Take After Being Laid Off

Regardless of whether you saw it coming, losing your job for reasons beyond your control can be devastating. It’s okay to need time to process and prepare before jumping into your job search. Keep reading to learn 5 steps for employees to take after being laid off by a California employer.

#1. Give yourself time to recalibrate and care for your mental and emotional needs.

Loss is an inevitable part of life. In many cases, the loss of a career can have overwhelming implications for the individual. It can take time to process the unexpectedness of job loss, let alone devise and execute a plan of action to restore financial security.

If you’re wondering which steps to take after a layoff, you’re not alone. It’s normal for unemployed workers to experience various stages of grief, depression, anxiety, and other emotions after losing a job. Being laid off can be a traumatic experience, even for employees who expect the layoff or receive generous notice before it occurs.

Before you burden yourself with the additional stress of finding a new source of income, it’s imperative to allow yourself time and space to recalibrate and recharge. While financial stability is paramount, caring for your mental and emotional health is equally important.

Rest assured that there are resources available to laid-off employees that can help your transition to a new career as seamless, swift, and stress-free as possible. Don’t neglect your mental health for the sake of rushing into a new job that may not be a good fit for you.

#2. Evaluate severance pay and benefits, if applicable.

While California employers aren’t required to give laid-off employees a severance package, many companies offer severance pay and/or benefits to workers who were laid off. It’s important to evaluate the terms and conditions of severance pay to better understand and prioritize your financial needs for your upcoming transition.

While there is often limited room to negotiate a severance package, there may still be opportunities to negotiate certain terms regarding compensation and benefits with your employer. It may also be necessary to evaluate your health insurance coverage to prepare for the upcoming months.

#3. Request a layoff letter.

More often than not, a layoff letter will be included in your severance package. Obtaining a layoff statement or letter of recommendation from your employer is necessary to show prospective employers that you were not fired or terminated, but laid off for reasons beyond your control (as opposed to a lack of skill or ability).

#4. File for unemployment.

While it may not take you long to acquire a new job, filing for unemployment benefits can provide needed cushion and reduce stress during the job search, especially if your new occupation entails a lengthy hiring process (such as multiple interviews or extensive training). Laid-off employees should consider applying for unemployment as soon as possible to receive needed assistance in a timely fashion.

#5. Know your worth before starting your job hunt.

Many employees feel panicked and rushed after losing a job. While it can be all too easy to feel like you’re operating under a ticking time bomb, it’s crucial to take a step back and evaluate your mental and emotional health before diving into your next position.

What needs and wants do you prefer in a new job? What are your personal and professional goals going forward? Are you still on the best trajectory to achieve lasting career fulfillment? If you cannot answer these questions in full, this in-between period is an excellent opportunity to reevaluate your needs, make adjustments, and decide what you need from an employer.

It’s imperative for employees to understand that being laid off is not a reflection of their worth. Failure to emotionally and mentally recover from a job loss can hurt your confidence and success in future interviews and positions, and even result in settling for less than you deserve.

Passionately Protecting the Rights of California Workers

Our compassionate legal team at Polaris Law Group, LLP has extensive experience defending the rights of California employees. Whether you have experienced discrimination, unfair wages, or were unlawfully terminated from your position, our skilled employment law attorney is here to prioritize your best interests and fight for the favorable outcome you deserve in court.

It can be difficult for hardworking employees to maintain financial security in today’s workforce. In some cases, failing to know or assert your employee rights can result in more than the loss of a job—it can also result in loss of confidence, peace of mind, and access to needed resources.

If you’re a U.S. employee who was unfairly treated or unlawfully laid off by an employer, you deserve legal representation you can count on. Our employment law firm has a proven track record of providing tireless advocacy and customized legal solutions to our clients. We offer free case evaluations to best serve California employees in Fresno, Hollister, Oakland, Pleasanton, and surrounding areas.

If you’re experiencing unfair treatment at work, it’s crucial to assert your employee rights. Call (888) 796-4010 or contact us online today to schedule a free case evaluation.

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