What to do if you are terminated from your job

Minnesota is an employment “at will” state.

Minnesota is an employment “at will” state which means the employer can fire any employee for any reason as long as that reason is not illegal and the employee can quit for any reason. However, there are numerous reasons that a termination may be unlawful.  For example, if you feel you were terminated because of discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, national origin, ancestry, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation or marital status, you should contact the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, EEOC and an employment attorney to discuss your termination.  There are five things you should do immediately if you are terminated from your job.

1.     Request a written statement informing you of the truthful reason for your termination.

You should also be aware that an employee who has been terminated in Minnesota may, within 15 working days following such termination, request in writing that the employer inform the employee of the reason for the termination. Within ten working days following receipt of such request, an employer shall inform the terminated employee in writing of the truthful reason for the termination (See Minnesota Statutes181.933).

2.     Request your personnel file.

You also have a right to review your personnel file once each year after separation, for as long as the personnel file is maintained.  The separated employee must provide a written request to review the personnel file. The employer must comply with this request within 7 working days if the personnel file is located in Minnesota, or within 14 working days if it is located out of state (See Minnesota Statutes 181.961).

3.     Demand Payment of wages due.

A terminated employee’s paycheck is to be issued within 24 hours of the employee’s demand for wages (see Minnesota Statutes 181.13). If an employee quits, wages are due within the next pay period that is more than five days after quitting. However, wages must be paid within 20 days of separation (see Minnesota Statutes 181.14).

When the discharged or quitting employee was entrusted with money or property during employment, the employer shall have an additional 10 calendar-days after the date of the employee’s separation to audit the accounts of the employee before the employee’s wages are to be paid.

Wages due upon separation — Minnesota Statutes 181.13, 181.14

The statutes provide penalties if wages are not paid according to the following guidelines:

for a discharged employee, wages are due within 24 hours of demand; and

for voluntary-quit employees, wages are due by the next payday, not to exceed 20 days from the last day worked.

If an employee is terminated, discharged or fired, all wages and commissions owed at that time are due upon separation or within 24 hours of the employee’s demand for the wages. If an employee leaves employment voluntarily (quits), all wages and commissions owed at the time of separation are due on the next regularly scheduled payday. If the next payday following the employee’s last day of work is within five days of the employee’s last day of work, then the employer will have until the pay period after that to issue all final wages. However, under no circumstances can the wages be paid any later than 20 days from the employee’s last day of work.

Under Minnesota’s final pay laws, if the employer fails to pay final wages promptly, employees may collect the amount of the employee’s average daily earnings for each day the employer is late in paying the wages, up to 15 days.

4.     File for unemployment.

If you file for unemployment compensation you may discover more information for why you were terminated and you may want to discuss whether you are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits with an employment attorney.  In order to obtain unemployment insurance, you must apply for it on line with the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Program, www.uimn.org.

5.     Contact an employment attorney.

Minnesota Statute 181.935 provides the remedy if the employer violates the law and does not provide you with a truthful reason for your termination or doesn’t provide you with your personnel file.  The remedies are as follows:

a) In addition to any remedies otherwise provided by law, an employee injured by a violation of section 181.932 may bring a civil action to recover any and all damages recoverable at law, together with costs and disbursements, including reasonable attorney’s fees, and may receive such injunctive and other equitable relief as determined by the court.

(b) An employer who failed to notify, as required under section 181.933 or 181.934, an employee injured by a violation of section 181.932 is subject to a civil penalty of $25 per day per injured employee not to exceed $750 per injured employee.

(c) If the district court determines that a violation of section 181.932 occurred, the court may order any appropriate relief, including but not limited to reinstatement, back pay, restoration of lost service credit, if appropriate, compensatory damages, and the expungement of any adverse records of an employee who was the subject of the alleged acts of misconduct.

There could be reasons that your termination was not proper, and if an employee is terminated it is always worth discussing the termination with an employment law attorney to help you understand your rights and options. If your job is being threatened or your have been placed on a performance improvement plan, John Holden at Holden Law Firm can discuss your situation with you to determine how you should proceed.

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