Lost Your Job? 5 Benefits You Could Be Entitled To If You’ve Been Let Go

Subject: A Japanese business office worker leaving his job with all his belonging in a layoff and economic recession.
YinYang / Getty Images

When you lose your job, your now-former employer must continue to support you in certain ways. But what are the five benefits the United States Department of Labor (DOL) says you’re entitled to when you leave a company?

1. Healthcare Benefits

If your previous employer has over 20 employees and you weren’t let go for gross misconduct, you probably qualify to maintain your existing health insurance coverage for up to 36 months under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). If you continue your coverage under COBRA, you’ll pay the same group rate as your employer. However, you’ll likely be responsible for the total premium because the company is no longer obligated to cover a portion of the cost.

Pro Tip: If you don’t elect COBRA, you have 60 days from when you lose your coverage to enroll in other insurance, such as a Healthcare Marketplace plan.

2. Unemployment Benefits

If you lost your job through no fault of your own, you might be eligible to receive unemployment benefits to help keep you financially afloat until you find another position. Unemployment insurance programs are administered at the state level, so the amount and duration of your benefits will depend on where you live. You must file weekly or biweekly claims (based on your state) to keep receiving payments.

3. Workplace Discrimination Protection

Under Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws, employers can’t discriminate against workers due to age, race, sex, religion, ethnicity, disability, veteran status or other protected class. So if you suspect you got let go from your job due to your membership within a protected class, you can contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to report the incident.

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4. Protection for Veterans

The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) helps veterans and their spouses “reach their full potential in the workplace.” VETS protects veterans’ employment rights and offers career resources, job search assistance and more. So, if you or your spouse has served (or is serving) in the military, you’re encouraged to check out the service.

5. Last Paycheck and Severance Pay

Laws in your state may require your employer to furnish your last paycheck immediately upon termination. But, if that’s not the case, the company has until the upcoming regular pay date to compensate you for your final hours worked. If that date passes and you still haven’t been paid, you can contact the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division for assistance.

Your company isn’t legally required to provide severance pay. However, based on your employment agreement and the organization’s policies, you may be eligible for that payment. If you do receive severance pay, the amount will likely be based on your years of service to the firm.

Your Next Steps

Once you’ve applied for unemployment and decided what to do about health insurance coverage, it’s time to create a plan to financially rebuild after losing your job. In general, you should try to trim the fat from your budget, use money from your emergency fund sparingly and strategically and contact your creditors if you think you may be late paying a bill.

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