You’ve worked hard your entire life with this day often in the back of your mind: the day you can put all that hard work into a long, enjoyable retirement. You’ve been a valuable employee to your company. You’ve done all the right things and this time is yours to enjoy.
Then something happens. You notify your employer of your upcoming retirement. You’re only required to give two week’s notice, but maybe you offer more than that due to the importance of your decision and the adjustment needed. Maybe you offer a month, or even several months to ensure your company has the convenience of being able to choose a suitable replacement for your job.
How does your company repay you? They fire you on the spot! Now you’re in a bind, as you needed that extra time. Maybe you aren’t prepared to pay the bills, or maybe you weren’t eligible for retirement benefits through your company due to your unexpected early departure. What options do you have?
Whether you’ve already had this happen to you, if it’s possible you might have a “Change in Control” aka CIC or Golden Parachute, or if you just suspect your employer may try to pull a fast one on you, there are ways to protect yourself.
Start By Being Proactive With a Retirement Letter
If you haven’t informed your employer you will be retiring yet and are trying to be proactive, consider writing a retirement letter rather than just announcing your plans for retirement. This is a really smart option to protect yourself. There are many reasons why. To start, you will have documented evidence of not only your intentions to retire and your reasons why, but you will also have written testament of your demeanor upon your decision to leave. These are all important things to document for many reasons.
To start, documenting your intentions to retire will create written proof that you provided 2 week’s notice or longer to your employer. This prevents your employer from claiming you were planning to leave without notice in order to provide any justification to their actions. This will also document the date you intend to retire which will prevent your employer from claiming you intended to forfeit your retirement benefits and leave earlier.
Additionally, explaining your reasons why you wish to leave and documenting it will help show that you are not leaving for reasons of being incapable of performing or unhappy at your job, but that you are actually intending to leave for retirement reasons.
Finally, showing that you are leaving a position with a calm, positive disposition will help prevent employers from trying to claim the separation was intended to be anything less than amicable. Often times, it will even help prevent an employer from having any misunderstanding about the reasons for the separation. After all, it’s much easier to interpret unchanging words in a letter than words that were spoken and deciphered through memory.
There are lots of samples of retirement letters online, but generally you should start your letter including your name, date of the letter, official date of retirement, your employee ID number if applicable, and the number of years you’ve been in service. You should explain your intentions regarding further medical, dental, and other retirement benefit contributions. If you wish to be of continued assistance after you retire, particularly in smoothing transitions after you leave and in preparing for who will take your place, make that known. Make sure the letter is clearly written with no opportunity for misunderstanding, write the letter in a grateful and cordial tone, and leave a forwarding address.
Another good idea is to wait until the date you are eligible to receive retirement benefits before planning and announcing your intentions to retire. This is the reason many individuals do not retire on the date they receive their retirement benefits and instead retire 2 weeks or more after.
If it’s too late for any of this, there are still options.
Unfortunately, an employer can legally terminate an employee after they have given “notice” and before the “notice time” has run out. You won’t even be able to file for unemployment in most cases. It is rare and generally considered bad business to do so, but an employer can terminate unless a signed employment agreement says otherwise. Often times, companies will justify this decision claiming that the employee staying up until their retirement date with it being known they are retiring will make other employees jealous, creating a hostile work environment. Regardless of whether or not this is the real reason, rather than them being spiteful, they can still legally get away with it unless certain things can be proven. This is particularly where an attorney can be useful.
For example, if an employer is proven in a court of law to have terminated an employee strictly in order to prevent their achieving full retirement status, this would be a violation of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
Furthermore, if your termination was motivated by age discrimination or some other unlawful factor, proving it in court with an experienced attorney can make a huge difference.
Finding a Professional California Employment Attorney
Webb Law Group is a reputable employment attorney firm with experience in matters involving California law. Having a reputable attorney by your side for these matters will help give you the best possible chance of a positive outcome in your case. If you feel you need legal representation, we are happy to review your legal needs and provide consultation and support where necessary.
For questions, or to schedule a consultation, contact us today at 559.431.4888 (Fresno) or 619.399.7700 (San Diego).