Jul 8, 2022

Work for a Tech Company? Here’s What to Do if You’re Laid Off.

Work for a Tech Company? Here’s What to Do if You’re Laid Off.

You’re changing the world through your innovative work at an exciting startup or technology company. Congratulations! Maybe you even have stock options and a nice bonus every year. But do you know what to do in the event of a sudden workforce reduction? 
 
Layoffs.fyi, a website that tracks tech startup layoffs using public reports, shows that there were 183 new startup layoff events in Q2, 2022 alone. Having a contingency plan and knowing what to look out for could save you legal trouble later on in the unfortunate event that you are wrongly laid off—or if the company is not following its end of the bargain. Read on to learn more about what to do if you’re laid off.
 
1) Check if you have a written employment contract. A written employment contract can serve as a kind of checklist to determine if the company complied with all the contract terms when they terminated you. For example, some employment contracts include clauses that mandate a certain amount of termination notice to be provided. If you were not given that required amount of notice, you may have a claim. 
 
2) Pause before signing anything. It is normal and appropriate to take a reasonable amount of time to make important decisions. Before you sign anything, take some time to read documents closely and consider whether you want to run termination paperwork—especially a release of all claims in exchange for severance pay—by an employment lawyer. Politely ask HR or the company’s representative for the opportunity to review any documents you’ve been asked to sign. Then you can review those documents carefully with an employment lawyer to understand how a document’s terms stack up against your needs. Decide what you are comfortable signing after you have taken some time to think and seek advice. 
 
3) Ask questions! Feel free to ask the company any questions you may have, including questions about severance, your 401k, FSA, HSA, stock options, etc. Try to do this even if you receive a “Dear Team” email notifying you of your termination or if you feel brushed off in some other way. And if you do not know who to contact for additional questions in the future, ask for that information, too.  
 
4) Check your stock and bonus options. Were stock grants, refreshers, or bonuses part of your compensation? Double-check all related dates and figures and write them down somewhere safe. You do not want to lose this information when you return a work-issued phone, computer, or calendar system, and you may need this information to talk to an employment law attorney if you determine you have not received everything you are owed. 
 
Also, make a note to find out how much time you will have to exercise any equity plans. Some tech companies extended these timelines during the COVID-19 pandemic, although ISOs (tax break!) still convert to NSOs (no tax break!) after 90 days. Talk to a registered investment advisor or other financial advisor with a fiduciary obligation to you if you need help sorting out your stock and bonus. 
 
5) Think about any paid leave you have taken. Have you taken medical or family leave recently, or did you have some upcoming scheduled leave? Confirm any relevant dates and think about whether the company may have singled you out for termination because you were on an approved leave. If you have any concerns or doubts, please consider talking to an employment attorney. There are numerous state-specific laws and other details that an attorney will be able to help you sort through.
 
6) Investigate signs of discrimination in the layoffs. If you identify with any protected class of individuals, try to determine whether you may have been discriminated against in this layoff. For example, if you are around 40 years of age, does it seem like the layoff disproportionately affected workers your age and older? Or maybe you recently complained about harassment or discrimination—think about when you alerted the employer of any legal concerns you might have had and whether this termination passes the smell test. Remember: once you sign a severance agreement, you are typically getting severance in exchange for a release of ALL claims! Be sure you do not have a viable employment claim that occurred during your employment before signing anything. 
 
7) Review future healthcare (COBRA). You should receive timely, legally compliant COBRA notices from your former employer. If you do not receive information about COBRA healthcare when you are terminated or if you need one of our employment lawyers to review your COBRA notice forms for compliance, please do not hesitate to contact Morgan & Morgan for assistance.
 
8) Collect unused PTO or other benefits. These are yours! Make sure you receive all PTO and other benefits you are entitled to. If you need any help, contact an employment law attorney.  
 
If you ever feel that you have been unfairly laid off, Morgan & Morgan’s experienced employment law attorneys are standing by to help you. Contact us for a free, no-obligation case evaluation to review your options.