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What Can My Union Do for Me if I'm Fired?

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 4/15/2011

A trade union is an organization of employees to bargain with the employer and assert their rights. But, you may ask,"What can my union do for me if I am fired?" Read on to find out.

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    Most people resent being fired from their jobs. As an employee, you probably think the dismissal was unjustified. Trade unions, as organizations that exist to protect employee rights can assist you challenge the dismissal, and or help you receive termination benefits.

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    Wrongful Terminations

    What can my union do for me if I'm fired What can my union do for me if I am fired from my job? While the union cannot protect your job, the major benefits of labor unions is they can protect you from unlawful firings and fight your case in court, depending upon specific union offerings.

    Most employment is "at-will." Employers have the right to “hire and fire" but not arbitrarily. Legislation such as the Equal Employment Opportunities guidelines, Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, Age Discrimination Act, and others place some restrictions on employers regarding firing employees.

    Such acts prohibit employees from firing employees:

    • Based on color, age, sex, religion, race, nationality, or disability
    • On leave per the Family and Medical Leave Act entitlement
    • For refusing to ignore illegal company practices
    • For refusing to yield to sexual advances or other non work related matters
    • For joining trade unions, or for following the orders of the union

    The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires companies employing more than one-hundred employees and firing half of them to provide sixty days advance notification.

    Many companies fire employees to avoid paying benefits that may accrue if the employee stays on the job for an extensive time. Although the employee can challenge such terminations as a "breach of good faith," there is no federal law to safeguard employee rights in this regard.

    When companies fire employees without heeding to such considerations, the employee may sue the company for wrongful termination, or approach relevant agencies such as Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The employer would then have to prove in court strong grounds such as employee’s performance, misconduct, or business reasons, for the firing. The trade union can help by checking whether the firing is valid legally, and if not, by taking up the case and advocating for the employee in the court and other forums. Unions can argue possible offers of job security in employment contracts and company manuals, and challenge the stated cause.

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    Benefits

    If your looking at answers to the question what can my union do for me if I am fired, understand that benefits of labor unions extend to playing an effective role in ensuring the fired employee receives entitled dues in full, and within the stipulated time.

    Fired employees are entitled to receive their last paycheck for the days worked. Some states require the employer to make immediate payment, whereas other states require the employer to make final payment on the normal monthly pay day.

    Fired employees are also entitled to any accrued or unused vacation time, unless the employee forfeits the benefit through an employment contract. Unions also help enforce any severance package agreements.

    COBRA, applicable for companies with more than 20 employees, allows fired employees to continue their health insurance coverage with the company for 18 months by paying the premium amount.

    Fired employees are also entitled to 401(k) or pensions, as applicable at the time of layoff.

    Trade unions can guide employees with these benefits, and take up issue with the employer if there is any delay or complications in the fired employee receiving such benefits.

    Outside of the job setting, trade unions can assist employees claim unemployment insurance benefits. Some large trade unions provide skill training for members and also assist in new job searches. Fired employees can also leverage the contacts in the trade union to discover vacancies or job openings.

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    Reference

    Center for Labor Education and Research. UNiversity of Hawaii. Worker Protective Labor Laws in Hawaii. Retrieved from http://clear.uhwo.hawaii.edu/laws6.html on April 10, 2011.

    Image Credit: flickr.com/Taber Andrew Bain