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Bouncing Back: Navigating Layoffs with Knowledge and Resilience

April 15, 2024

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

– Alexander Graham Bell

Losing a job can be a tumultuous experience, especially during a recession. However, understanding your rights and the resources available to you can make this transition less daunting. If you’re an employee in Illinois facing a layoff, this checklist will guide you through your rights and the next steps to take, ensuring you’re equipped to bounce back stronger. NOTE: This is not legal advice. Please consult a licensed attorney skilled in employment law for custom legal advice about handling your layoff.

Know Your Rights Under the WARN Act

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires employers with 100 or more employees to provide at least 60 days’ notice before a mass layoff or plant closing. This gives you time to prepare and seek new employment. If you did not receive such notice, you might be entitled to back pay and benefits for each day of violation.

Understand the OWBPA

The Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) is part of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). It provides protection to workers over the age of 40, ensuring they have time to consider any separation agreement. Under OWBPA, you have at least 21 days to consider the offer before signing and a 7-day revocation period after signing.

Illinois Freedom to Work Act

This act prohibits non-compete agreements for employees earning below a certain wage threshold. If you’re laid off and your employer had previously required a non-compete agreement, check if the Illinois Freedom to Work Act invalidates it, which could make your job search easier.

Separation Agreements and Severance Pay

Review any separation agreement carefully. It may include severance pay, which is often based on your tenure and position. Remember, you’re not required to sign immediately and can take the time afforded to you under the OWBPA.

Unemployment Benefits

You can collect unemployment benefits if the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) determines you’ve lost your job through no fault of your own. Severance pay does not disqualify you from receiving unemployment benefits, as long as the severance pay is not considered wages.

Checklist for Laid-Off Employees in Illinois

  1. (1) Confirm WARN Act Compliance: Did your employer provide 60 days’ notice?
  2. (2) Review OWBPA Guidelines: Take your time to consider the separation agreement if you’re over 40.
  3. (3) Check Non-Compete Validity: See if the Illinois Freedom to Work Act affects your non-compete.
  4. (4) Understand Your Separation Agreement: Look for severance pay details and other benefits.
  5. (5) Apply for Unemployment Benefits: Do this as soon as possible after your layoff.
  6. (6) Consult IDES for Job Assistance: They offer resources for job seekers during tough economic times.

Tips for Finding a New Job During a Recession

Remember, a layoff is not the end of your professional journey; it’s a detour. With the right knowledge and resources, you can navigate this challenge. Be grateful for the experiences you’ve had and the opportunities yet to come. Your resilience and adaptability are your greatest assets during this time. Keep pushing forward, and you’ll find that new doors are waiting to be opened.

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