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Termination of employment is confusing

Posted by Pattie Hunt Sinacole  October 25, 2010 08:14 AM

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Q: I was recently terminated and am unclear of the reason. In fact, when I asked why during my very abrupt termination meeting, I was told “we think it is best to part ways.” What does that mean? Am I eligible to collect unemployment? I have never had this happen to me before. How are reference checks usually handled when an employee is terminated? Signed, Confused.

A: I am sorry that you were recently terminated and are now confused as a result. I can not provide your employer's reasons on why you were terminated. I think only your employer can provide that information. It is unfortunate that you are not aware of the reason. Companies usually will provide this information but they are not required to provide a reason. In Massachusetts, and many other states, employment for most of us is “at-will.” What this means is that the employee can leave a position at any time and for any reason. And conversely, the employer can terminate the employment relationship for any reason or no reason at all.

Assuming you work in Massachusetts, you should have been provided information on how to collect unemployment assistance. I have attached a link to the information. You can contact the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) by phone or by visiting them in person. Before contacting them, you should have specific information ready and available to provide to them. This information is outlined in the link that I have shared. Usually most Massachusetts workers that are terminated are eligible for unemployment compensation benefits. However, the DUA makes the final decision with respect to eligibility.

Each employer handles references checks on former employees differently. You may want to contact your former employer to ask them about their specific policy. More and more companies are providing only a confirmation of the following: whether the former employee worked at this employer, the specific dates of employment and perhaps the job title(s) held by the former employee. Sometimes the former employer will provide more information. It is important for you to know this information before you begin your job search. You will want to learn this information so your explanation of your separation is plausible and understandable by a prospective employer.

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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.

Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.

Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.

Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.

Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.

Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.