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Employment termination on a Friday at 5pm

Posted by Pattie Hunt Sinacole  August 22, 2011 08:02 AM

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Q: I was terminated from my job at 5pm on a Friday right before I was ready to leave for the day. I think the supervisor planned the termination for the end of the week instead of telling me earlier in the week. Should I have been given notice? Am I entitled to severance or other types of additional pay? Is this legal? I was told that I was terminated for tardiness and being unreliable.

A: I am sorry that you were terminated from your job. Unless you have an employment contract or a member of a union, your employer can terminate your employment for any reason, including concerns regarding tardiness and unreliability. Most workers in the US are “at-will” employees and can be terminated at any time for any reason.

Assuming you are an “at-will” employee, your employer can also change your duties, salary or benefits as well. Unless you are a union member or have an employment contract, your employer does not have to provide you with any notice. In Massachusetts, employees who are terminated or laid off, must be in full for any wages due to them. These wages should be paid in full on the day of the lay off or termination. This would include any wages due to you for the hours worked, including the day of your termination. You should have also been paid for any unused but accrued vacation time. Severance pay is not required unless it is specified in an employment or union contract. Assuming you were working in Massachusetts, your employer should have also provided information to you on unemployment benefits. A copy of this information can be found at http://www.mass.gov/Elwd/docs/dua/0590a_508.pdf.

Although you might disagree with how and when your supervisor communicated this information, based on what you presented), it sounds like your termination was likely legal.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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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.

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