Laid Off vs. Fired: What’s the Difference? | Barrett & Farahany

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Laid Off vs. Fired: What’s the Difference?

Laid Off vs. Fired: What’s the Difference?

laid-off vs. fired

Whether you’ve been laid off or fired, losing your job is not a fun experience. However, contrary to popular belief, these two forms of termination are not the same thing, and there are completely different legal protections and government benefits for each type.

If you are unsure of the differences and have recently been laid off or fired, the employment law attorneys at Barrett & Farahany can explain more about both occurances and what kind of help you can receive.

Laid Off

Being laid off occurs when an employee is let go from their job due to reasons that are out of their control. It has little to no connection to their work ethic, what they bring to the company, or anything else.

Rather, the loss of their position can often be attributed to downsizing, company restructuring, or economic difficulties in the industry. Nothing is forever, and even companies collapse and see hard times, leading to employees being laid off. Laid-off employees are typically given notice and may be eligible for certain benefits such as severance pay, continuation of health insurance, and job placement services.

Legal Implications

Under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, employers with 100 or more employees are required to provide written notice at least 60 days in advance when planning a mass layoff or plant closure. This law is in place to give employees time to find new employment or seek retraining opportunities. Failure to comply with this law can result in legal action against the employer.

If the employer does not give adequate notice, employees who are laid off can sue for back pay and benefits to compensate for the 60 days of notice that should have been given.

Laid-Off Benefits

Laid-off employees may be eligible for unemployment benefits, depending on their state’s laws. Some states are different from others, so it’s important to research your state’s requirements and qualifications.

These benefits are designed to provide temporary financial assistance while the individual searches for a new job. Additionally, under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), laid-off employees have the option to continue their health insurance coverage for a limited time, typically up to 18 months.


Being fired, on the other hand, occurs when an employee is terminated from their job due to poor performance or misconduct. This decision is usually made by the employer and can happen without prior notice. Fired employees are not eligible for the same benefits as laid-off employees in most states, but may be entitled to certain termination benefits.

Legal Implications

In most states, employment is considered “at-will.” This means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time and for any reason, as long as it is not discriminatory, retaliatory, or in violation of a contract. This puts the responsibility for the job loss on the employee rather than on the company’s failings. When someone is fired, it’s usually one person or a few people at a time. This can make it seem far more personal to the employee and appear discriminatory versus when many people lose their jobs during layoffs.

If you believe that you’ve been fired for discriminatory or even retaliatory reasons other than your work performance, contact our attorneys. We will review your case to determine if you can receive compensation and potentially even more benefits.

Termination Benefits

Termination benefits refer to any payments or benefits that an employee receives upon being fired. This can include accrued vacation time, severance pay, and payment for unused sick leave. If you receive these, it is usually because it was promised in your employment or promotion contract. Some employers may also offer them as a gesture of goodwill or in accordance with their company policies. These benefits are not required by law.

Contact the Attorneys at Barrett & Farahany For Help

If you’ve been laid off and haven’t received the benefits you were owed or didn’t receive a 60-day notice, our employment law attorneys can help. There are wages and benefits you are owed that you haven’t received, so let us help you get them.

If you have been fired for reasons other than poor work performance, we can potentially help you prove it and seek compensation. Contact us as soon as possible.

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Barrett & Farahany

Georgia Office

3344 Peachtree Road NE, Suite 800
Atlanta, GA 30326

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

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77 W. Wacker Dr. Suite 4500
Chicago, IL 60601


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