What To Expect After You Have Been Wrongfully Terminated

There are times when losing one’s job doesn’t come as a big surprise. When there are signs that a company is downsizing or closing altogether being able to prepare for it is invaluable. Most often, as in my case, a job loss is unexpected. It seems to come out of nowhere and can knock you off your feet.  But it doesn’t have to.

If you have ever lost your job, there are probably a lot of thoughts and feelings going through your mind. You may be angry at your boss, and anybody else you think could be responsible for your situation. Your anxiety will kick in high gear wondering what will happen next and how will you pay the bills.

And if you feel as though you were wrongfully terminated, as I was, all those feelings and more are multiplied by 1,000.  I can tell you from experience in the immediate aftermath of being told to kick rocks by your employer, you should do the following:

1.  Acknowledge Your Feelings!

Losing a job is like any other loss and you will experience all the stages of grief.  Don’t downplay it.  Work through it and know the sun will shine again, and you will be okay.  I personally suggest talking to a professional to help you deal with and adjust to your new situation.

For me, when I was terminated I didn’t find out the exact dates of my former employer’s allegations until over 1 year later.  I had to ask the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (case number 27110) to request this information from Payless Shoesource.  I thought that would have been part of their job in their investigation, but evidently, not so much.  I had been angry for a very long time, and just when I thought I was over it, that ugly dragon reared it flaming head all over again.

Just know that your feelings are valid and no, you are not crazy.  The system is stacked against you and more often than not, the organizations in place that are supposed to protect us are just a bureaucracy.  Their goal is to close out files as quickly as possible and move on to the next case.

2.  Don’t admit to a crime or wrongdoing.

You’ve been called into the HR office and Loss Prevention is there. Uh-oh. Your hands get a little shaky or sweaty. Your blood pressure rises.  You develop an immediate headache. You feel the panic rising up the back of your neck. You’re not thinking straight. When they deliver the bad news, your mind starts racing.  If you are ever in this situation sit back, take a deep breath, and whatever you do, keep your mouth shut and don’t sign something admitting to a crime. Ever.

3.  Take A Break.

If you can afford it, don’t jump right back into the workforce.  This is especially true if you feel as though you were terminated unjustly.  By starting another job to soon you might be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.  You are not in the right mindset to make the best decisions when it comes to finding another employer.  Especially if you are motivated by money and willing to take whatever you can get.  This break goes hand in hand with #1.

4.  Get your government benefits.

If you were terminated, unjustly or not, you should be eligible for government benefits such as unemployment.  Take advantage of everything that is available to you.  I’m talking food stamps, help with utilities, etc.  It’s not a handout if you put into the system for over 30 years like I did.  Contact your local unemployment office and start the process immediately.  Most state applications can be completed online.

5.  Figure out how long your money will last.

Be realistic about your expenses.  This is the perfect time to downgrade your cable, re-evaluate your cell phone bill, and minimize or eliminate your extracurricular activities.  You don’t want to deplete your savings and increase your debt.  Take inventory of what you have that you can sell and get rid of it.  Now is the time to let go of all your “frills” and get down to brass tax for your finances so you don’t make a knee jerk decision when it comes to finding a new job.

6.  Look into your health insurance.

If your former employer provided your health insurance as part of your benefits package, you are going to have to find out how to pay for it on your own. An illness can wipe out your savings and put you into serious debt very quickly. You should be able to continue your group benefits through COBRA (The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act), but this can be an expensive proposition.  When you apply for unemployment benefits see what health benefits are available to you as well through your local office.

7.  Get legal advice.

You state Civil Rights Commission (CRC) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) are NOT your advocates.  In my experience these federally funded organizations will only due a cursory review of your claim and take the employer at their word.

In my situation, the only useful information the CRC provided was the Right To Sue letter.  This is in spite of their less than diligent investigation that stated I was not discriminated against.  Fortunately, the EEOC can still provide remedy and overrule the CRC.  Unfortunately going through this process this is a necessary evil before your attorney can file a complaint in federal court.  This process can take up to one year or longer.

8.  Evaluate your career choices.

Losing your job provides you with the perfect opportunity to reevaluate your career choice and determine whether a change is in order. One thing to consider is whether you enjoyed what you were doing. Do you think you would be happier or have more stability in another occupation?  Make sure to do your homework first.

The problem with this mindset is that the older you are, the harder it will be to find a level of employment commensurate with your skill set, experience, and abilities.  For me, I have over 20 years of Industrial Engineering experience with an MBA and a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.

Nowadays companies weigh in the following factors when making a new hire decision (not all inclusive):

  1. Salary requirements
  2. Potential Length of service, i.e., how long will you be working for them (ageism)
  3. Opportunities for growth and advancement

Realistically there are thirsty millennial’s ready to step into a career in their field.  They need to start paying down their student loans.  Why would a company hire 48-year-old Cecelia for high 5- or low 6-figures when they can get a college graduate for pennies on the dollar who they can mold, shape, relocate, and promote?  And that has not been jaded by Corporate America like I have.  The answer is, they wouldn’t.

9.  Learn new skills.

The best way you can spend your downtime is becoming more valuable to society and the workforce at large.  The US Department of Labor is your source for career exploration, training & jobs.

You can use this time to find your passion and learn the skills you need to get good enough at it to make you some real money.

In Summary…

When I was fired these are the exact tools I used to make sure I didn’t fall off the map and take my lifestyle down with me.  I capitalized on the education, knowledge, and training I had gained on my 20+ year corporate journey.    I decided to bet on black – no pun intended because of my race.  And the results have been nothing short of AMAZING.  I have a renewed appreciation of what I can do through Christ who strengthens me.  If you want to see how my journey started click here.

The moral of my story is…Use your job to create your lifestyle, so when you lose your job you don’t lose the standard of living you have become accustomed to.

I always appreciate reading your comments.  Feel free to drop a comment and let me know if this information is valuable to you and share with others you know who can benefit from this knowledge.


Cecelia goes by the tagline “Engineer by Education and Home Business Owner By Desire”. Since being displaced by Corporate America for the 2nd time in 10 years, she now uses digital marketing strategies to monetize her online business with over 20,000 followers on social media, over 200 training videos and articles, and coaching programs personalized for her client’s goals!  To schedule a private consultation with Cecelia click here


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Disclaimer:  This information is provided for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice.  The legal issues surrounding employment discrimination and harassment claims are complicated and very fact-specific. Questions or concerns should be discussed with an attorney.