Maybe you heard layoffs were happening around the company, and your boss has been surprisingly distant with you. Maybe you saw your position posted on a job search engine. Maybe you have been unfairly treated since you complained about discrimination or took FMLA leave. Or maybe a coworker let it slip: they’re letting you go.
Few things are as disheartening as the realization that your company might be preparing to fire you. You might want to stop working, lash out, or confront your supervisors. Here’s what to do if you think your termination is around the corner – and what not to do if you suspect you may be getting fired.
Don’t disparage your company online.
For many of us, social media is one of the first things we turn to after a hard day, and it might even be a place you’re used to complaining about your job regularly. If you think you’re getting fired, it is essential to resist the temptation to bash the company online.
Don’t just stay away from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; steer clear of venting your frustration on Yelp, LinkedIn, and job review sites, too. While it may feel good to bash your boss on the Internet, your short-term frustration may turn around to bite you and make it harder to get a severance agreement. You’re not going to solve any problems or prevent your imminent firing, and on the off-chance that you’re not actually being let go, you’re giving the company a great reason to reconsider. Find a family member or trusted friend and vent to them instead.
Don’t email yourself sensitive information.
It can be tempting to email yourself proof that you’ve been doing your job well, or proof that you’ve been discriminated against, but be careful to stay within the guidelines of your company’s policy about confidential and sensitive information.
Printing out information and saving it, uploading files to a flash drive or forwarding emails to an account outside of your company’s system could be grounds for dismissal by itself. If you feel you have been discriminated against, your company may be required to provide information such as email correspondence and job reviews anyway (California law requires that employers provide their employees’ personnel files upon termination. Texas law does not but in a lawsuit, you will ultimately get your personnel file). Forwarding emails to yourself may seem like a good idea, but it’s important to not give the company any more reasons to let you go.
Do continue to do your job to the best of your ability.
It can be hard to soldier on when you feel you’re facing termination, but if you suddenly stop doing your job, or you encourage others to stop doing their jobs, you are giving your employer more reasons to let you go.
Don’t get into an argument with your boss.
It is very important to not vent your frustration or anger to anyone senior to you, including most importantly your boss. Good claims for wrongful termination can go sideways in a minute if you boil over and say anything inappropriate to your boss or another member of management, including the HR employees.
If you are fired, resist the temptation to tell the people who terminated you what you think of them or to be insubordinate in any way. If you do have a good claim for wrongful termination, don’t waste it by giving the company a valid reason to have fired you.
Do make a list of any incidents in your job history that may be relevant to the reason you think you’re being let go – and keep it at home.
If you suspect that discrimination or retaliation may be to blame for your termination, make a list of relevant incidents.
Was there a change in your manager’s behavior after you reported sexual harassment? Did your employer withhold your yearly bonus after you reported the company’s illegal conduct? Did your hours change after you took medical leave or requested disability accommodations? Does your supervisor have a habit of telling inappropriate jokes? Have you been passed over for promotions that have been given to younger employees with less experience or only to men or only to employees of a different race?
There are lots of different ways discrimination and retaliation can happen, and it’s important to sit down and write out any incidents you feel may be relevant to your claim. Also include times you were praised for your work, or got an award, promotion, raise, or performance bonus. If you get fired for alleged performance issues, this will help to refute that. Try to remember specific names, dates, and times if possible, including the names of any witnesses to the incidents. Putting the list in chronological order is usually the best way to keep it organized.
Finally, remember to keep the list at home; don’t share it with any coworkers or put it online. These incidents may point to discrimination or retaliation, and they may not. Read more here about discrimination and protected classes, retaliation, and whistleblowing.
Do make a claim for discrimination or other wrongful treatment with HR
If you have not already done so, inform your HR department or other appropriate person of your claims that you have been treated wrongfully. It may be best to consult with an attorney regarding what to say and how to say it, but it is important that you have made a record of your allegations. Do so professionally and appropriately. Put your claims and their factual background in writing if possible.