Being terminated after years of employment is a scary thing. This will inevitably bring about anxiety and worry about the future.

Losing a job is more than just about money. It’s also about self-worth and in many cases the loss of benefit continuance such as health insurance, life insurance and disability insurance.

On the one hand, terminated employees have understandable concerns about starting legal action against their former employers for fear of “burning bridges” in a “small world”. On the other hand, dismissed employees have to ensure that they get the fairest compensation package possible for the sake of them and their families.

While these concerns are very real, with many employment cases we handle, negotiating a termination package can be done in a way that would alleviate these concerns to prevent “burned bridges” and “hard feelings” from holding a terminated employee’s  future hostage.

Firstly, hiring a lawyer to handle the negotiation is always advisable. As the saying goes, when you represent yourself, you have a fool for a client. Hiring a lawyer enables the lawyer to deal directly with the company or its lawyer(s). This can reduce the emotional toll knowing you have someone in your corner who understands the process and who can advocate for you.

Secondly, as part of any deal, requesting a positive reference letter  and funding for outplacement employment services are some helpful ways to ensure that even after the legal process has concluded, a positive reference letter and access to career development services can be used to assist with career transition.

In addition, all full and final settlements often have confidentiality clauses inserted in them which would prevent either party from discussing or disclosing the details of the case with others (including future or prospective employers). This is a good way to ensure that once a matter is closed, employees can move on without having this “legal cloud” hanging over their head. For example, former employees would not need to worry about prior employers divulging the details of their legal battle to a future or prospective employer as doing so would be an invitation for legal action.

Remember, as a terminated employee, standing up for your legal rights and being on good terms with your former employer don’t always have to be at odds. However, sometimes, bridges will be burned.  When that happens, just ask yourself  whether the bridge was already burned anyway after you were terminated.

Regardless, if done properly, even a hotly contested employment dispute can be wrapped up in a way that ensures you get the compensation you deserve and land the future job you want without going down with the smouldering bridge.

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