Losing a job can be a devastating and unexpected experience. It can disrupt stability and force you to worry about things like paying the mortgage and maintaining health insurance coverage. In this difficult economy, those facing job loss or layoff are not alone.
There are resources, there is help, and there are networks of support that can ease the situation. If you or someone you know is facing the prospect of job loss or layoff, use the opportunity to become informed, adapt to the situation, reflect and reinvent yourself for the changing times and changing economy. For a quick start, download FindLaw's Guide to Job Loss [pdf].
A History of Resilience
America has faced economic hardship before. In the 1930's, during the period now referred to as the Great Depression, economic conditions were even more severe than those today, with an estimated 25% of Americans without jobs and the failure of nearly 11,000 commercial banks in the country. The wisdom gained from the time of the Great Depression has guided the Federal Reserve and incoming administration to take steps to adapt to the worldwide economic shift and respond quickly to safeguard the future of the U.S. economy and jobs.
Though the U.S. has experienced spikes of unemployment since the Great Depression, those rates have ranged from 7.4 percent in the 1960's to 10.8 percent in the 1980's and have otherwise hovered near five percent, showing an underlying resilience in the U.S. economy and its workforce.
Job Loss and the Law
The law contains some protections for those who are currently coping with job loss.
Severance pay generally refers to payments made upon disengagement from a job without cause. Absent an agreement promising severance pay or company history of the practice, there is no law requiring employers to provide it, though many employers do give one to two months' salary to employees who are let go without cause.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and equivalent state laws require employers of 20 or more employees to provide an option for continuing health insurance for a specified time period, usually 18 months, at the expense of the former employee.
Unemployment insurance may also be available and can provide financial assistance for usually up to six months after job loss.
Safeguarding Your Family's Health
Though you and your family may extend coverage through COBRA, there are some important considerations you should take into account while you are still covered under your company's healthcare plan.
Consider negotiating with your health care physicians to continue care at a lower rate than the insurance company was billed. In light of the general economic times, they may agree, which would enable uninterrupted healthcare by trusted physicians.
Also in the face of the imminent loss of company-provided healthcare insurance, get immunized while your policy is still active. Such preventative measures could be beneficial in the long-run in protecting you and your family from disease.
Choose elective healthcare tests carefully as you transition from your company's health insurance to your own. Evidence of pre-existing conditions discovered could inhibit your chance of finding coverage.
Seeking the Help You Need
In the world of immediate information exchange, there are abundant live and online resources -- including articles, blog posts, social media innovations, and instant messaging -- you can use to connect with others in similar situations, to renew your job search, and to rejuvenate your drive.
So, become informed, explore your options, connect with those around you, and take time to reflect on your growth and what you seek from a new position. Most importantly, keep moving forward.
Below are resources to help with your transition to your new career.
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Contact a qualified employment attorney to make sure your rights are protected.