As part one in this series states, employees deserve the right to negotiate in order to attempt to achieve the best options possible. Here is Part two which describes other aspects of the work place and negotiating strategies.
If you have relocated recently at the request of the employer, try to obtain additional relocation allowances. This can amount to a large sum if you recently sold your house at a loss in order to move per the ex-employer’s demands, or must return to a distant state to be with your family and look for work there. Additional expenses to ask for where applicable include expenses incurred to transport your personal possessions back to another state or travel and lodging expenses incurred to find a replacement job in a distant locale.
Discuss accrued salary, vacation pay, overtime, and unused sick pay. Be sure you are paid for these items. In most states, there is no legal obligation for a company to pay you unused vacation or sick time. Check your company handbook to determine what rules, if any, apply.
Hopefully, there was no company policy stating that vacation or sick days are forfeited if they are not used in a given year.
If you worked for a sufficient time (e.g., more than six months) during the year, you may have accrued vacation time. It is illegal in most states for employers to withhold accrued vacation money even if you are fired for cause. Although each company is free to implement its own rules governing vacation pay, employers must apply such policies consistently to avoid charges of discrimination and breach of contract.
Inquire and demand to be paid for all earned, accrued vacation, sick leave, and overtime pay at the final negotiating interview. Chapter 9 contains various letters that you can send to enforce your rights if the company refuses to pay you accrued benefits.
Some employers are not inclined to pay more (or any) money unless you sign a release. But it is generally illegal for the company to refuse to pay your salary, wages, overtime and accrued vacation pay earned through the termination date at the time of discharge. There can be no strings attached; you are entitled to receive the money immediately regardless of whether you decide to sign a release or not. If you do not receive such monies immediately after a firing, contact a lawyer or your nearest Department of Labor office for advice.
Overtime is not generally available for salaried workers who work in executive, administrative, or professional jobs (called exempt employees). But if you are a salaried worker, your company is not generally allowed to deduct a few hours off your weekly paycheck for time off for any reason, including personal time. If it does, you may be determined to be an hourly worker, capable of receiving overtime for up to three years.
If you are an hourly worker and worked overtime, discuss the amount of money due you (at time-and-a-half rates) with your company. Tell the ex-employer you may contact a representative at your state’s Department of Labor or the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor for help if the ex-employer fails to respond to your request.
If you were fired without notice, ask for two additional weeks of salary in lieu of the employer’s lack of notice. This is an effective strategy to help get more severance. Even if the employer is not willing to pay you more severance, this is the one area where your request has a good chance of being accepted.
If commissions are due or are about to become due, insist that you be paid immediately; do not waive these expected benefits. Salespeople who earn commissions are now receiving additional statutory protections in this area. Many states now require that companies promptly pay commissions to their independent sales representatives (or agents) who are fired. When prompt payment is not made, companies may be liable for penalties up to three times the commission amount plus reasonable attorney fees and court costs if the case is eventually litigated. Check your state’s sales rep law or speak to a knowledgeable employment attorney for more details.
Understand how your bonus is computed. If you were entitled to receive a bonus at the end of the year, ask for it now. If you were fired close to the end of the year, and the company says it has no legal obligation to pay you a bonus because you didn’t work the full year or are not on the payroll the day the bonus is paid per company policy, argue that the firing deprived you of the right to receive the bonus, especially if you were terminated through no fault of your own (not for cause). If this request is rejected, insist that your bonus be prorated according to the amount of time you worked during the year. If this request is denied, ask for your full bonus but settle for less (e.g., half). Speak to a lawyer to analyze and enforce your rights in this area where applicable.
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