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Friday, May 09, 2008

Asking for Severance

I started work in January 08 as an HR Manager for a very small company of 35 employees. I was told this week that they can no longer afford to keep this position as they are "hurting" for money. I am in a protected class and wondered if I should be asking for a severance package? Thank you.

I will make no comment on the fact that they hired you 4 months ago and now realize that they can't afford the position. No comment whatsoever.

There are several different possible scenarios here.

1. The management at the company you work for is just darn stupid. They said, "hey we need an HR manager." (True, apparently.) "Let's hire one!" Then they did and they realized they had to pay you, which they couldn't afford. Oops!

2. They have the money for an HR manager, but they don't like you, so they figure that telling you it's a financial thing is easier than saying, "you keep talking about KSAs and regulations and what's up with your OSHA worries? Plus, you keep trying to come to our meetings. This annoys us, please leave."

3. As with situation 1, they realize they need an HR manager, so they hired you. Now that you are on board, they realize they are paying too much and have another candidate in the wings who will do the job for less, so they want to get rid of you and hire that person.

I'm sure there are other possibilities, but these are the three main ones. You'll note none of them have to do with your protected class status. Being in a protected class doesn't mean you can't be terminated, it just means you can't be terminated because of your status.

The reason why I'm confident your status has nothing to do with your termination is that they just hired you. One of the strongest defenses you can have to such a complaint is that the person who made the decision to hire you is also the person making the decision to fire you. Since you made no mention of a change in management, I assume that is the case.

Now, the fact that they believed they needed an HR manager and you are an HR manager should put you in a good negotiating position--because they need help in that area.

Should you ask for severance? Absolutely. Always ask for severance if you are being terminated. The worst thing that can happen is they say no. Your protected class status can help you here--not because it's relevant, but because they may not know that it's not relevant.

I'm of the opinion that severance should be offered for all involuntary, not for cause, terminations. (Please note, I am not advocating a government mandate requiring severance. I am advocating that companies do the right thing.)

So, ask for severance. I hope they give it to you. And ask for a reference for your job hunt. You'll need a good explanation for why you left after such a short time frame. And make sure you apply for unemployment as well.


Alexandra Levit said...

Hi EHRL, was wondering if you could explain what it means to be in a "protected class?"

Thanks, enjoying the blog!


Alexandra Levit
Author, Success for Hire
Blogger, Water Cooler Wisdom

Rachel - Employment File said...

An HR Manager that cries "protected class" as soon as he/she is termed? I have a good idea about why they termed you.

Andres V Acosta said...

Judging from the comment on the size of the company (35 employees), a "pure" HR Generalist may be a little excessive. I'm not saying unneeded, just a little extravagant; unless you also are responsible for other parts of the business like facilities management, payroll, training or finance. Fifty is right around that magic minimum number of employees needed, depending on the type of business, for an HR Manager to really be able to prove his/her value added.

Anonymous said...

Evil - Are you SURE I can't cuss in the comments section? Cause that question sure makes me want to! :)

Evil HR Lady said...

Alexandra, here is a fairly good definition of protected class.

HR Wench, I love you dearly, but i will delete any bad word comments. Try to use your polite company words instead!

Chad A. Hanson said...

It seems to me that its time to wip up a big complex spreadsheet demonstrating how you could add more value then you cost.

Turnover at such a small house should be your killer data point.

Anonymous said...

It's a common mistake to equate minority with protected class. We all are in a protected class because we all have a race, a gender, an age, etc. Race is protected, not just minority races. It's just as illegal to fire somebody because they are white as it is to fire somebody because they are black. The Civil Rights Act doesn't specify which race, gender, age, national origin, or religion is protected because they all are.