I lost my job. Now what?
As an employment law attorney I know that losing a job can be very scary and is widely considered one of the top ten most stressful life events (along with things such as the death of a family member, divorce, and imprisonment).
What comes next? How long will I be out of work? Do I have enough money to get by until then? These are the types of questions a person asks when they lose their primary source of income. There are also legal questions they may consider. Below are answers to some common questions related to loss of employment:
- Was it legal for my boss to fire me?
While each case will depend on the particular circumstances, some general legal principles are helpful. Arizona law, A.R.S. § 23-1501, provides that, unless a written employment agreement sets forth a specific duration of time for the employment to last, either the employee or employer may terminate the relationship at any time. However, the “at will” nature of the employment relationship (meaning the employer can fire you “at will”) does not allow an employer to fire an employee where the termination is in violation of public policy or is the result of discrimination based on such reasons as race, religion, gender or age.
- When will I get my last paycheck?
If you were fired or laid off, your employer is required to pay all wages due to you by the earliest of (1) seven working days or (2) the end of the next pay period. See A.R.S. § 23-353.
- Am I entitled to my accrued vacation/sick time?
A fired employee is entitled to all non-discretionary compensation that he “has a reasonable expectation to be paid.” A.R.S. § 23-350. Typically, if it is the employer’s policy to pay terminated employees for their accrued paid time off (PTO), then you are entitled to that compensation. However, if the company policy and practice is to not pay terminated employees for their accrued PTO, you will not be entitled to it.
- If my employer does not pay me all of the money I am owed, what can I do?
If an employer fails to pay the money it owes to a fired employee, then the employee has the right to sue to recover the money. In some cases, the employee can recover “treble damages,” or three times the amount due. For cases where the unpaid wages are $5,000 or less, a person may file a wage claim with the Labor Department, part of the Industrial Commission of Arizona.
- How soon must I act if I want to bring an action to recover unpaid wages?
The statute of limitations for bringing a case for unpaid wages is one year. Different time limitations may apply if you believe you have a claim based on discrimination and/or if you were a public employee, and it is important to meet with an attorney promptly upon termination if you believe you may have a claim against your employer.
These are only some of the questions you may have if you have been terminated from your job. We can discuss these and others with you in detail at your convenience. While losing a job is challenging, we hope to help relieve the stress by navigating the legal issues that may arise. Please call us today, we would be happy to meet with you to discuss your case. We can be reached at at (480) 833-1113.
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