Getting Fired VS Getting Laid Off

Losing your job is emotionally taxing and can often come as a big surprise. But it’s important not to let the shock of the news leave you in a cloud of confusion. Getting laid off and getting fired are two very different things. They also impact you in different ways. An employer may not always be clear about the terms under which they have decided to let you go. So it’s really up to you to leave knowing exactly where you stand.

Here’s what you need to know about the difference between getting fired and getting laid off.

Getting Fired:

When an employee gets fired, it’s usually due to job performance or behavior. An employer’s reasoning can range from not being a good fit for the role to publicly embarrassing the organization. In the case of being fired, you’re generally terminated and removed from the premises upon notification. You’re usually not eligible for unemployment benefits and perhaps the biggest distinction is that you are not eligible for rehire within the organization. This is a permanent termination.

Getting Laid Off:

Getting laid off is usually due to a financial constraint the organization is facing or an internal restructuring of roles. A layoff is an indication that the employee is in no way at fault for the separation. Generally, the employee is also eligible for rehire. Employees who are laid off are permitted to obtain unemployment benefits and in some cases may receive some sort of severance package.

At-Will Employment:

Nearly all employees today are at-will employees whether they know it or not. In short, this means both employer and employee can terminate the working relationship without cause at any time. But even though your employer doesn’t have to give you a reason for terminating your relationship, it’s important you leave with a clear understanding of the situation. Be sure you have clear answers to how they will categorize your separation when asked by future employers as well as by the unemployment office if you plan to apply for benefits.

Uncollected Paid Time Off:

Depending on the state you work in, you may be entitled to be paid for unused paid time off (PTO) benefits and/or unused vacation days. Any company policy regarding paying out unpaid, accrued PTO or vacation will ultimately be subject to the laws of the governing state. It’s important to know your rights!

Unpaid Commissions:

Commissioned employees find themselves in a precarious position. Especially if they have uncollected commissions at the time of their departure. Policies on collecting commissions after termination can vary from company to company. But don’t take your organization’s word that you’re eligible to collect the payment. Research the state laws governing these issues. Being well informed and knowing exactly what you can expect is critical.

Dealing with your termination in an Interview:

Discussing your termination in an interview with a potential employer can be a very sensitive topic. The most important thing you can do is to remember not to talk about the separation in a negative way. Of course, it can be difficult to do even if you were laid off through no fault of your own.

Even if you were technically fired, you have to find the positive in the situation. There is always something positive to be learned from every experience, even getting fired. Think about how the experience has made what you’re looking for even more clear. Maybe that the experience has dispelled any beliefs that a less structured environment is actually right for you.

This may be harder to do if your termination was due to your own misconduct. However, if this is information that will eventually come to light, it’s important to be honest. It’s equally important to show that you’ve taken responsibility for your actions and that you have indeed learned from them. Perhaps you were terminated as a manager because you kept overstepping boundaries at work. Share that you now have a real understanding of the behavior and know how to avoid it from happening again.

Getting laid off and getting fired can feel like insurmountable setbacks. Be sure you have a good support network to lean on, give yourself time to heal and take care of yourself both mentally and physically during the process.