The Layoff Survival Kit
John Rossheim | Monster Senior Contributing Writer
July 26, 2011
This article offers general information on legal and financial matters relating to employment. For specific information relating to your situation, please consult an attorney, financial planner or appropriate government agency.
Now that you’ve lost your job, you need to hurry up and find a new one, right? Wrong. You’ve got to buck up and tie up loose ends with your ex-employer in order to secure your finances and insure your health. Add these items to your to-do list for your first week out of work.
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Salary and Accrued Vacation Time
Hopefully, as you walked out the door with that box full of personal possessions, your boss slipped a check in your pocket that covered your salary through the last day, pay for unused vacation and so on. But what can you do if your former employer can’t – or won’t – pay you in full?
First, be sure you and your ex are on the same page regarding what you are owed. Contact the human resources director and synchronize your records. Then call your state labor board and make sure you understand what the law mandates. Some states require that the employer pays you in full on your last day of work, others give the employer some slack. Similarly, some states mandate payment for unused vested vacation time, others may not. Here are directories of the 50 state governments and their laws.
If your ex-employer initially refuses to comply with the law, “you can use state enforcement agencies to sue an employer,” according to Paul Gregory, special employment council with the law firm Greenberg Peden in Houston. If instead you hire your own lawyer, those bills could easily exceed the amount of your claim, Gregory says.
What if government agencies are of no help? “Worst-case scenario, you’ll have to chase your money in bankruptcy court,” Gregory says. Just be aware that this is a long haul, and companies may often have few assets that can be liquidated to pay off creditors.
When your defunct employer disappears from the face of the earth, who creates your W-2 report of wage income? Maybe no one. If you haven’t received the form by mid-February, contact the IRS to request a substitute W-2. You will be asked to produce your final paycheck of the tax year.