At some point in your working life, chances are you will find yourself unemployed. With the average job now lasting four years, you can also expect to be unemployed multiple times. Whether it’s a result of mergers, closings, globalization, mismanagement, or a psychotic boss looking for a reason to throw you under the bus, you are not immune to job loss.
Today’s average employer has the loyalty and integrity of a street whore. Satisfactory job performance, stellar attendance and punctuality, a solid work ethic and skill sets, and quietly tolerating endless sniping and drama from colleagues are no guarantee that you’ll hold onto your job. Working to live is a mantra many of us ascribes to, but that’s now a deal breaker. It’s live to work, or you might not get hired or retained.
At-will employment (with the exception of Montana) is the law of the land. Simply stated, an employer has the right to terminate you at any time, without notice, or without a reason. Read the fine print disclaimer the next time you fill out an employment application. Conversely, you as an employee have the right to terminate your employment at any time, without notice, or without a reason. Of course when you turn in your customary two week notice, you’ll most likely be told to leave immediately, or worse yet, be run through a worthless and degrading exit interview with some HR bitch.
Case in point, years ago, I worked for a small privately owned steel company. The place was a toxic hell hole. One of my colleagues was a guy in his early fifties. For twelve years he had toiled without complaint, all while being treated like an inmate at Auschwitz. Oddly, several times he received the employee of the month award. One day, his wife was offered a major promotion with her employer, but it required they relocate across the state. He went to the management and gave his two week notice. He was immediately led out the door like a condemned man heading to the gas chamber.
Unless you are a protected class (women, minorities, transgendered, etc.) you have little to no recourse. If you are a white heterosexual male, especially a white heterosexual male over fifty, you have a bull’s eye strapped to your back. Sure, you can attempt to bring a wrongful termination suit, or an ageism suit, against a former employer, but try getting the EEOC to have your back. Any decent attorney will tell you that suing an employer, especially as a white heterosexual male, is a fool’s game.
I’ve been on this earth for nearly sixty years. In this time, I’ve had more than my fair share of slap downs and setbacks, including job loss.
Here are two things I’ve learned about jobs and unemployment. Hard lessons learned the hard way.
Don’t rely on employers for anything
My late father was a journeyman Tool & Die Maker. He graduated from high school shortly after WWII. His high school curriculum prepared him with industrial arts courses, trigonometry and geometry, analytical and reasoning skills, and surprisingly, civics and character building.
After graduating, he entered a Tool & Die apprenticeship in a machine shop. Back in the day, there were plenty of decent paying jobs in wealth generating manufacturing (make America great again, Trump). Young men like my father were prepared and willing to do these jobs. College was for the wealthy, beatnik slackers, and dilettantes. Young women like my mother were attracted to hard working men with good jobs and good character.
My father had 3 jobs during his career; the last one was 29 years. He earned a very comfortable middle class income, and he lived with little to no debt. Lifetime employment was a reality for his generation, and he retired with a pension like a medieval robber baron. We had our differences, but he instilled in me character and a work ethic. His old school “strict but fair” worldview is more attractive to me now.
But my generation, and those after me, faces a very different workplace and job market.
Today, we have employers, who will discard you like a morning turd in the toilet, pay bitch wages, hire lazy and dumb snowflakes, give total autonomy to man hating HR cunts, and enable male management to store their balls in masonry jars.
I know people who made up their minds early in life that they’d never rely on any employer, they’d keep their debt down, and they’d self-fund their own retirement. These are the folks who have prospered and survived. They say living well is the best revenge, and I believe it.
Apply for unemployment insurance (UI) immediately
UI is insurance, and not welfare. In my state, it lasts 26 weeks, and currently pays a maximum of $444.00 per week depending on how much earnings you had in a given quarter. You also must pay taxes on UI, and they can do a percentage deduction from your weekly benefits. Chump change, but it’s better than nothing. You initially apply online or by phone, and do your weekly claims the same. It’s a cake walk. You pay for part of it in your payroll deductions, while the employer pays the lion’s share, which of course pisses them off. But on the bright side, it’s a legal way to get back at an employer who bent you over a barrel.
It’s a one week waiting period if you are laid off, and a three week waiting period if you were terminated. The burden of proof for separation is on the employer.
They have to prove you were terminated for gross misconduct. Gross misconduct is narrowly defined (stealing, workplace violence, etc.). Otherwise, if you gave what’s referred to as a “good faith effort”, meaning you showed up every day on time, attempted to perform your job to the best of your abilities, and did not refuse anything duly owed to your employer, you are awarded UI.
Most employers are scared of their shadow, and fear litigation, so generally, they roll over easily. I’ve only had one employer challenge my UI claim, but they were initially unable to prove gross misconduct, so it went no further, and I was awarded UI benefits. If an employer does contest your claim, then a hearing is scheduled, usually over the phone. An arbitrator hears both the employer’s and claimant’s sides, and then makes a determination for UI.
The more claimants drawing on an employer’s UI account, the more they have to pay back into the fund to make up for the deficit. Again, this pisses them off.
You can’t draw UI if you quit, unless you can prove a hostile workplace. This too is narrowly defined (sexual harassment, racial harassment, sexual orientation harassment, etc.). Again, this is nearly impossible to prove if you’re a white heterosexual male.
Here’s a word of caution. My state allows you to work up to a certain amount part-time before they start deducting from your weekly benefits. Think twice about working, especially off the books for cash, and not reporting it to UI. They take UI fraud very seriously. A guy I knew worked construction off the books for cash while drawing UI. He split up with his psychotic hipster girlfriend. Out of spite, she turned him into UI. He was subsequently charged and convicted of criminal fraud of UI benefits. Not only did he have to pay the money back, but he did jail time, incurred large legal fees, and now has a criminal record.
For the ADHD basement dwellers, whose commentary is forthcoming, try to wrap your empty heads around this; I’m older, and I’ve lived through job losses, so I know what I’m talking about. Make no mistake, I’m pro-business, I voted for Trump, and I hold down both a full-time day job, and a part-time evening job. But, I deeply loathe shylock employers, and I equally loathe predatory capitalism.
For my perceptive and thinking ROK brethren, at all ages and stages in your lives, a word to the wise; Caveat emptor, especially when navigating today’s workplace. Learn to trust your gut to avoid pissing on your shoes, as I sadly learned later in life, especially with bad job choices. Know that most employers don’t care about your professional development, nor do they give a rip about your job satisfaction and happiness. All you owe any employer is an honest day’s work, to the best of your abilities, and to play by their rules while on the job. But, respect and ethics goes both ways. An employer is not obligated to treat you in a professional or humane way, nor look out for your best interests. But the beauty of a free market is that you can vote with your feet and move on.
I commend those ROK readers, and especially those at a young age, who’ve started their own businesses, are self-employed, and have given the middle finger to toxic bush league employers. Fuck those shit skins, life is too short.