Terminated Employees’ Stages of Grief

A guest column by Robert Boreanaz, a labor and employment attorney at Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria, appears in the May 18 issue of Buffalo Law Journal. In “Grief Process of Terminated Employees,” Mr. Boreanaz discusses how attorneys who focus on areas of law other than employment can advise family, friends, and acquaintances who have lost a job on this emotionally charged issue. He suggests that stages of grief similar to those that are often associated with the loss of a loved one can be used as a framework for conversations about the employment termination.

Read the full article at the Buffalo Law Journal website.

At first, disbelief and anger

During the initial stage of embarrassment, disbelief, and anger, Mr. Boreanaz advises readers that, in attempting to help the terminated employee, “you will likely have to dive right into their employment circumstances. You will explore whether or not they had an employment contract or were part of a collective bargaining agreement.” He notes that you will probably conclude that the terminated person was an “employee at will.”

Attorneys often receive legal questions from friends and family about issues they are facing, such as the loss of a job.

“Inevitably,” he says, “you are going to have to explain that an employee can be fired for any reason as long as the circumstances do not violate specific state and federal employment laws.”

If the termination appears to have been in violation of an employment statute—for instance, if the employee was terminated based on age, race, religion, or another protected category—Mr. Boreanaz advises seeking the counsel of an experienced employment lawyer.

Bargaining and acceptance

Once you’ve established that the termination did not violate any employment laws, Mr. Boreanaz says the former employee may argue that they deserved better treatment. “This is generally a sign,” he says, that the former employee “is leaving the anger stage and moving to the bargaining stage of grieving.”

The former employee, he says, “Begins to realize that the severance agreement offers them some consideration for their release. However, they may want more. They may reflect on the revenue their contributions generated for an employer or the amount of money they have heard other terminated employees received in the past.”

“At this point, it is a good idea to again review that the severance agreement is simply a payment of consideration in exchange for a release,” he says, while helping the person understand that if their claims have no legal value, “they do not have any leverage over the employer to bargain for additional consideration.”

At the acceptance stage of grieving, the terminated employee will generally agree to sign the severance agreement and move on. “This is maybe a good point to conclude your meeting,” Mr. Boreanaz notes, adding that, as you walk the former employee out of your office, “hopefully you both feel like their future will be bright as they pursue new employment opportunities.”

Who can help?

Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria, located in Western New York, has extensive experience all facets of labor and employment law, including wrongful termination cases. The firm’s attorneys have earned numerous recognitions, such as having an attorney named Best Lawyers in America “Lawyer of the Year” in Labor & Employment Law. Call our attorneys today to discuss your legal rights.

This article does not purport to give legal advice and isfor informational purposes only.