Checklist for What to Do After Losing Your Job - Barrett & Farahany

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Checklist for What to Do After Losing Your Job

Checklist for What to Do After Losing Your Job

Many people today are faced with the prospect of losing or have just lost their job. Barrett & Farahany, LLP provides you with a Checklist on what to do both before and after losing your job to protect yourself for work, financial and your legal rights. See also our Resource Guide that provides more companies and organizations designed to help those who are unemployed.

Contact Barrett & Farahany, LLP, LLP to schedule an appointment here or by calling for a no-cost consultation and more advice on what to do if you’ve lost your job.

Unemployment Checklist

What to do if you fear you may lose your job:


  1. Look at your finances – and revisit your budget. Look at what it will take to keep you and your family afloat, including paying necessary bills and expenditures, and meeting debt payments. Then look at your cash flow and any reserves you could responsibly tap into. From there, devise a plan and stick to it.
  2. Get out of debt now and stop spending on non-essential items.
  3. Consider unemployment insurance for your car payments and other loans.
  4. Buy personal items, food and supplies in bulk, and enough for six months.
  5. Start an emergency fund, and put it into a high-interest savings account. Many of the online banks offer higher interest rates.


  1. Make yourself indispensable at work. Those that will keep their jobs are the ones that are either income generators or help income generators generate more income.
  2. If your company has already gone through a round of lay offs, you should actively try to pick up the work of your departed co-workers.
  3. Volunteer to take on new responsibilities. Consider expanding your capabilities.
  4. Identify ways for your employer to reduce expenses, and implement those changes at work.
  5. Begin to rehearse what you will say if you are let go. The way a person handles themselves after hearing they’ve lost their job can be very important to their future. After all, the person delivering the bad news may also be the person who could help you find, or land, your next job.


  1. Make copies of all the documents that you have personal access to that shows your work performance.
  2. Gather your paychecks, time sheets and other work related documents.
  3. Make a list of all documents that are company documents, but that are not your property, that would help to support any claim you think you may have. Do not take documents that do not belong to you.
  4. Gather your co-workers’ phone numbers, particularly if they may be witnesses.
  5. Gather a direct number for the supervisor who you would want to give you a reference.

What to do if you’ve just lost your job:

First, take a moment. While everyone knows the economy is struggling, it can be personally shocking and frightening to lose your job. As difficult as it may seem, take a moment to reflect, regroup and resolve to remain positive. Gather your support system in the process – you’ll need your network, and your energy, to land on your feet.


  1. Lower your monthly bills by negotiating with your vendors. Search to see if your vendor is offering a special or your vendor’s competitor has lower rates, and ask your vendor to match them. Companies are open to making deals instead of losing customers right now.
  2. Lower your utilities by using energy saving steps, such as turning off lights, changing filters, and caulking drafty windows.
  3. Determine other ways you may have to make an income, including selling items you don’t use, or finding a way to make money from a hobby.
  4. Eliminate nonessentials, including canceling unnecessary bills or memberships. Cut back where you can. Some organizations, like gyms, will allow you to freeze memberships for a time. For example, do you really need a home phone and a cell phone?
  5. Call your creditors. Tell them you’ve lost your job. Most will be willing to work with you by suspending payment for a period of time. For example, student loans can be put on deferment until you get another job.


  1. Do not burn any bridges with your employer. Maintain professionalism during the termination process.
  2. Ask your employer when you will receive your final paycheck.
  3. Determine from your employer when your insurance benefits will end. Some employers will continue coverage through the end of the month. Others will terminate the insurance immediately. If your coverage continues through the end of the month, make arrangements to get your prescriptions filled and see your providers before your coverage ends.
  4. Ask whether the employer will be providing a severance package.
  5. Though you may feel discouraged, don’t hesitate to start your job search. Gather your resources immediately such as information you might need for your cover letter and a portfolio of your work, if applicable. Make sure your resume is polished. Be proactive, and work your network, contacting everyone you know. Before you go on that first interview, you’ll want to practice providing an answer to why you were laid off – remember to stay positive and focus on what the experience has taught you.


  1. Meet with an attorney to review your termination and severance package, if any. Many employees have legal claims that they are not aware of. For example, 60 percent of salaried employees are actually entitled to pay at time and half for the hours worked over 40 in a week, but most employees are not aware of this. Many employees may be entitled to their back wages. Some attorneys offer free consultation, allowing you to receive advice and determine if you have any grounds for a case, such as claiming overtime. (See Am I Entitled to Overtime?)
  2. If you are offered a severance package, don’t sign without reading it first, and consider having a lawyer review it as well. Be sure you understand the terms. Are you giving up any rights? Are you signing a non-compete clause? According to Federal law, you have 21 days to sign a severance agreement, and a week after signing to make a change. You, or your attorney, may be able to negotiate a better deal, such as using your computer while job hunting or receiving a letter of recommendation.
  3. File for unemployment. Claims are effective on the date that they are filed and are not retroactive to the last day worked, however, benefits will not start until after any severance period. You should take the separation notice, if one is provided, but it is not required. You should take the names and addresses of all employers for the last 18 months and the dates worked for each. In a lay off, you are automatically entitled to unemployment.
  4. If your company provides COBRA, take advantage of these rights – don’t allow a serious health incident set you back even more. COBRA is a federal law that allows you to continue your health care coverage after you leave your job for up to 18 months. In addition, Congress has enhanced COBRA benefits as part of the recent economic-stimulus bill. If you lose your job between Sept. 1, 2008 and Jan. 1, 2010, the federal government will subsidize 65 percent of your COBRA premium, and your employer will pay 65 percent of the COBRA payment on your behalf. The employer must send coverage information to you within 30 days and you have up to 60 days to decide whether to elect COBRA coverage.
  5. Contact your savings plan administrator to determine what you should do with your 401(k). You may want to roll it over into your next company’s 401(k) plan or set up a personal IRA. Do not tap into your 401(k) without first identifying all the tax consequences. Using your 401(k) for living expenses should be a last resort only.

A final word of advice, resolve to keep a daily routine. Going forward, you should get up, shower, dress, and check online for jobs you can apply for. Remember that networking is always the best way to find a job. Do what you can to keep moving your life forward.

Contact Barrett & Farahany, LLP, LLP to schedule an appointment here or by calling for a no-cost consultation and more advice on what to do if you’ve lost your job.

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Barrett & Farahany

Georgia Office

3344 Peachtree Road NE, Suite 800
Atlanta, GA 30326

Alabama Office

2 20th St N, Suite 900,
Birmingham, AL 35203

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