8 Laws that Protect You When You’ve Been Laid Off

With the recent mass lay-offs weighing on everyone’s mind, many people may wonder what protections are in place if they were ever to fall victim to a lay-off. Here is a sampling of both federal and Minnesota laws that protect you in the event of a lay-off or reduction-in-force:

Minn. Stat. § 181.13

Entitles you to immediate payment of any earned wages and commissions that remain unpaid at the time of termination. After you send a written demand, the employer has 24 hours to pay up before penalties start to accrue.

Minn. Stat. § 181.933

Entitles you to a written statement of the truthful reason for your termination. Upon receipt of a written request from you within 15 days of the termination, the employer has 10 working days to provide the reason.

COBRA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1161-69

Entitles you to elect continuing health insurance coverage under the employer’s plan and to receive notification of this option.

Minn. Stat. § 62A.17

Provides protections similar to COBRA.

Unemployment Insurance, Minn. Stat. §§ 268 et seq.

Entitles you, in most situations, to unemployment benefits from the state if you lose your job for a reason other than misconduct and are actively seeking suitable employment.

Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification A.ct (WARN Act)

Requires large employers to provide you with 60 days’ notice when there is a mass lay-off or a plant closing.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), as amended by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq.

Requires any waiver of age discrimination claims to be knowing and voluntary. If your employer is trying to get you to waive these claims, the waiver must: expressly mention the ADEA in the waiver provision and explain the waiver in a manner that can be clearly understood, exclude any claims from the waiver that occur after the date of signing, provide consideration (money or something else of value in exchange for your agreement to the waiver) in addition to anything you are already entitled to, provide at least 21 days for you to consider its offer, and allow you seven days to revoke your signature after you submit it to the employer.

Anti-Discrimination Laws

Most lay-offs are made for legitimate business reasons. But if you are part of a particular group of protected employees, i.e. women or older workers, which is being harder hit by the lay-off than others, you may be protected under one of many anti-discrimination laws.

Keep in mind there are exceptions and subtleties to these laws that are not covered here. This is only a brief overview. If you have concerns about being laid off or questions about your severance agreements, it’s always best to hire a lawyer.