Three Things You Should Ask Human Resources if You are Terminated

(And why HR is not your friend.)

This firm represents employees and we specialize in discrimination, retaliation, wage and hour disputes and whistleblower and First Amendment claims.

We tell clients all the time that they need to understand that HR works for the company. The company issues their paychecks, and, at the end of the day, they're most interested in ensuring that the company isn't liable for anything.

HR has three main objectives when conducting terminations. The first being the most important--to protect the company from liability. The second is to give as little information as necessary. And the final is for the meeting to go as quickly as possible--even if that is mostly human nature because no one likes firing anyone. A timely meeting does serve a few other objectives, though. The first being that less can go wrong in a quick meeting. The second that the employee will not have time to react. Employees can, of course, slow down these meetings and potentially get some valuable information in the process. 

So what do you do if you find yourself in a termination meeting?

Some employees have a tendency not to ask any questions because they're so shocked, which makes sense. You may never have seen a termination coming. But you should take advantage of the one to two minutes that you have with HR or the supervisor just to get as much information as possible.

Here are three questions you should ask:

1. Why am I being fired?

If you're an at-will employee, the company doesn't need to provide you with a reason you're being fired. But it doesn't hurt to ask because, in the worst-case scenario, they say, "We're not telling you." The best case scenario is admitting to discrimatory or retaliatory practices; however, that is highly unlikely. Somewhere in the middle is a likely scenario that you will be told a pretextual reason for termination that you can disprove later. 


2. When do my benefits end?

In most cases of termination, they either end effective immediately or at the end of the month. But you want to know when your benefits end so that you can cover health insurance and other needs, and you need to know how fast to act.


3. Am I being offered severance?

You want to know if the company is offering you any money. Then, you are in a position where you can prepare to potentially hire an employment law attorney or just plan the next steps. Try to pin down a number that will be offered and ask if it is negotiable. (Know that it is probably negotiable even if you are told it isn't). 

Also, if you've been offered a severance agreement, there's some money at play. You may want to consider hiring an attorney to at least take a look at the severance agreement prior to signing it. 

The employment attorney can explain to you what you're signing because the agreements are often very hard to understand. At the very least, you'll get value for that knowledge, and if you sign it, you're getting money from the company.

On the flip side, the lawyer may tell you, "You should not sign that because you've got really good legal claims," which could lead to additional money for the employee.


You should also get information on who your point of contact will be if you should retain counsel. While not completely necessary, if you do suspect wrongful termination, it can get you a head start. 



Navigating Job Loss in Tennessee: What to Do After Being Terminated

Experiencing job termination can be a challenging and emotionally taxing event. However, it's essential to know that there are steps you can take to manage the situation, protect your rights, and ensure a smoother transition to your next employment opportunity. If you've been terminated in the state of Tennessee, take time to consider your options and next steps carefully. 

1. Stay Calm and Seek Clarity

The immediate aftermath of job termination can be emotionally charged. It's natural to feel shock, anger, or anxiety. Take a deep breath and try to stay as calm as possible. Seek clarity from your employer about the reasons for your termination. Understanding the cause can help you make informed decisions moving forward. If possible, get your employer's answers in writing. In Tennessee, employers are not legally required to provide a reason for termination unless it is outlined in an employment contract or agreement. However, your Tennessee employer must specify a reason for separation to the State of Tennessee in a document, and it is advisable to request a written explanation for your records. This can be useful if you need to address the termination with future employers or if you decide to seek legal advice.

2. Review Your Employment Contract and Severance Agreement

If you have an employment contract or severance agreement, carefully review its terms and conditions. These documents may outline your rights, obligations, and any benefits you are entitled to upon termination. Ensure that you fully understand what is expected of both you and your employer. Most employment in the State of Tennessee is at-will employment, but that doesn't mean you are not one of the few with a contract. If you have been offered a severance, please take your time to consider it and consult an attorney. 

3. Explore Unemployment Benefits

In Tennessee, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you meet certain criteria, such as having earned a minimum amount of wages during your base period and being actively seeking new employment. You can apply for unemployment benefits through the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development's website or by contacting your local Career Center. If your employer contests your unemployment claim, you may consider consulting an attorney. 

4. Assess Your Finances

Termination often leads to a sudden loss of income. It's crucial to assess your financial situation and create a budget to manage your expenses during your job search. If you have an emergency fund, consider using it as a temporary safety net until you secure new employment.

If your employer provided health insurance, you may be eligible for continuation coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). Alternatively, you can explore healthcare options through the Health Insurance Marketplace or Medicaid, depending on your eligibility.

5. Network and Update Your Resume

Begin your job search by networking with professional contacts, friends, and family members. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile to reflect your most recent experience and skills. Attend job fairs, connect with local employment agencies, and explore online job boards.

6. Consider Legal Advice

If you believe your termination was unlawful or involved discrimination, retaliation, or a breach of contract, consult with an experienced employment attorney. A specialized attorney can assess the circumstances of your termination and provide guidance on potential legal recourse.

7. Take Care of Yourself

Losing a job can take a toll on your mental and emotional health. Prioritize self-care by maintaining a daily routine, staying physically active, and seeking support from friends, family, or mental health professionals if needed. Taking care of your wellbeing is essential during this challenging time.


8. Know You are Not Alone

Experiencing job termination is undoubtedly a difficult and uncertain period in your life. However, by staying composed, understanding your rights, exploring available benefits, and actively pursuing new employment opportunities, you can navigate this transition more effectively. Remember that many individuals have faced similar challenges and successfully bounced back to secure new, fulfilling employment opportunities. With the right approach and support, you can too.

What to do if you suspect Wrongful Termination

Navigating Illegal Termination in Tennessee: Know Your Rights

Losing your job can be one of the most challenging stressors of adulthood, but it becomes even more challenging when you suspect that your termination was illegal. In the state of Tennessee, as in the rest of the United States, certain laws protect employees from wrongful termination. Understanding these laws and your rights is crucial if you believe you've been the victim of an illegal termination. In this article, we'll explore what constitutes wrongful termination in Tennessee and what steps you can take if you find yourself in this situation.

Understanding At-Will Employment

Tennessee, like most states, operates under the principle of at-will employment. This means that, in the absence of an employment contract or specific legal protection, employers can terminate employees for any reason or no reason at all, as long as it's not in violation of federal or state anti-discrimination or retaliation laws. Similarly, employees can resign from their positions at any time without providing a reason.

Illegal Termination Scenarios

While Tennessee follows at-will employment, there are several scenarios in which a termination may be considered wrongful:

1. Discrimination: Federal and state laws prohibit employers from firing employees based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. If you can demonstrate that your termination was motivated by one of these factors, it may be considered illegal.

2. Retaliation: It's illegal for employers to terminate an employee as retaliation for engaging in legally protected activities, such as reporting workplace harassment, discrimination, or safety violations.

3. Breach of Contract: If you have an employment contract that outlines the terms and conditions of your employment, your employer must adhere to those terms. A breach of your employment contract could make your termination illegal.

4. Violation of Public Policy: Termination that goes against established public policy may be deemed illegal. For instance, firing an employee for refusing to follow a workplace policy that would go against public policy would constitute wrongful termination. The Tennessee Courts recently reaffirmed there is still a common law right of action for violation of public policy; however, it is important to understand this is exceedingly rare. 

What to Do If You Suspect Illegal Termination

If you believe you've been illegally terminated, taking the following steps can help protect your rights:

1. Gather Evidence: Collect any documentation related to your termination, such as emails, performance evaluations, and witness statements that may support your claim.

2. Consult an Attorney: Seek legal advice from an experienced employment attorney in Tennessee. They can help you assess the circumstances of your termination and guide you through the legal process.

3. File a Complaint: Depending on the nature of your case, you may need to file a complaint with the appropriate agency. For discrimination claims, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the relevant agency. If you have a breach of contract claim, you may pursue legal action in state court.

4. Explore Your Options: Your attorney will help you understand the options available to you, which may include pursuing a wrongful termination lawsuit to seek remedies such as reinstatement, back pay, and damages.

5. Maintain Records: Keep records of all communication with your employer, your attorney, and any relevant agencies throughout the legal process.


Wrongful termination in Tennessee is a serious matter, and it's essential to know your rights and take appropriate action if you believe you've been wrongfully fired. Consulting with an experienced employment attorney is often the first and most crucial step in seeking justice and protecting your interests in these challenging situations. Remember that the law is designed to protect employees from unjust terminations, and you have the right to pursue legal remedies if you believe your rights have been violated.

Evaluating the Potential Worth of a Wrongful Termination Case in Tennessee

Is it worth it to sue your employer? What are the potential pitfalls?

Losing a job can be a devastating experience, especially when it's due to wrongful termination. Fortunately, employees in Tennessee have legal protections that allow them to seek compensation for unjust dismissals. If you believe you've been wrongfully terminated, it's essential to understand the potential worth of your employment case and what you might be entitled to in terms of severance pay or a settlement. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, this article will shed light on how a lawyer from our firm might evaluate your wrongful termination case and what you can expect in terms of severance pay or a settlement.

Determining the Worth of a Wrongful Termination Case

When assessing the potential worth of a wrongful termination case in Tennessee, several factors come into play:

The Nature of Wrongful Termination:

  • Tennessee, like most states, is an at-will employment state, which means that employees can generally be terminated for any reason, as long as it's not illegal. Wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired for illegal reasons, such as discrimination, retaliation, or violation of employment contracts.
  • The nature and strength of your case will significantly impact its potential worth. Strong evidence of wrongful termination can increase your chances of securing a higher settlement or court award. 
  • Types of strong evidence that may increase your chances of settlement and/or a jury award include:
    • A termination or other retaliatory action close in time to a complaint or discriminatory act
      • One of the strongest pieces of evidence for retaliatory discharge is the temporal proximity between your complaint against your employer and their reaction. 
      • The closer termination or another retaliatory act is to your complaint, the more likely a judge and jury will find for you in your case.
    • Recordings--video or in-person--that evidence your treatment at work or any part of your testimony 
      • It is hard to argue with a recording!
    • Written documentation 
    • Strong performance reviews


  • In Tennessee, you may be entitled to various types of damages in a wrongful termination case. These can include back pay (lost wages), front pay (future lost wages), emotional distress, and attorney's fees.
    • The greater your compensation was at work and the amount of time you have been out of work increase your damages
  • Calculating damages can be complex, as they depend on factors such as your salary, the length of time you've been unemployed, and the emotional toll of the wrongful termination.

Legal Process:

  • Whether you settle the case or take it to court can affect its potential worth. Settlements are often more predictable, whereas court awards can be more substantial but come with higher legal costs and uncertainty.

Employer's Resources:

  • The financial strength of your former employer can also influence the potential worth of your case. Larger companies may be more likely to settle for higher amounts to avoid negative publicity or protracted legal battles. There are also specific statutes and regulations that may limit the amount of money owed to you by a former employer.

Understanding Severance Pay

Severance pay is a form of compensation provided to employees upon termination, typically as part of an employment contract or company policy but sometimes as a part of a wrongful termination settlement. While there is no legal requirement for employers in Tennessee to offer severance pay, many companies do so to mitigate potential legal disputes. 

The amount of severance pay can vary widely based on several factors:

Length of Service:

  • A common guideline for determining severance pay is one to two weeks of salary for each year of service. However, this is not a strict rule, and some employers may offer more or less based on their policies.

Industry Standards:

  • The industry you work in can significantly influence the severance package you receive. In industries where competition for talent is fierce, such as the tech sector, it's not uncommon to see severance packages of four weeks or more per year of service.

Individual Contribution:

  • Employers may consider your contributions to the company when determining your severance package. Exceptional employees or employees who made stand-out contributions may receive more generous severance terms.


The potential worth of a wrongful termination case in Tennessee and the amount of severance pay you can expect are influenced by a variety of factors. It's crucial to consult with an experienced employment attorney who can evaluate the specifics of your situation and guide you through the legal process.

Remember that every case is unique, and outcomes can vary widely. If you believe you've been wrongfully terminated, seek legal advice promptly to protect your rights and explore the potential remedies available to you in Tennessee.

Evidence in employment lawsuits

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1. Written Documentation

Employment contracts: A clear, written employment contract that specifies the terms and conditions of your employment, including job responsibilities, compensation, and termination procedures.

Offer letters: Offer letters that outline the terms of your employment, including salary, benefits, and any promises made by the employer.

Emails and correspondence: Emails, letters, or memos that document conversations or actions related to your employment, including any discriminatory or retaliatory statements.

2. Performance Reviews and Evaluations

Positive performance evaluations: Strong performance reviews that demonstrate your competence and contributions to the company can counter claims of poor performance leading to termination.

Inconsistent feedback: Evidence of inconsistent or contradictory performance feedback, especially if it conflicts with the reasons given for your termination.

3. Witness Testimony

Statements from colleagues or supervisors who can attest to your job performance, any discriminatory behavior they witnessed, or any retaliation you experienced. There is strength in numbers!

Expert witnesses: In some cases, experts in fields like human resources or workplace discrimination can provide testimony supporting your claims.

4. Video or Voice Recordings

In some situations, video or audio recordings of workplace interactions can serve as strong evidence, as long as they were legally obtained and relevant to the case.

5. Company Policies and Handbooks

Employee handbooks and company policies that demonstrate the employer's obligations, procedures, and any violations of their own policies.

6. Incident Reports

Reports of incidents, accidents, or violations that are inconsistent with the reasons given for your termination. Another helpful way to prove you were reporting issues to Human Resources as well. 

7. Statistics

Statistical data or patterns that demonstrate a history of discrimination or a company-wide practice of violating employment laws.

8. Social Media

Posts or messages on social media or online platforms that contain evidence of discriminatory or retaliatory actions by the employer or colleagues can be important for your case. Even if they don't specifically evidence discrimination or retaliation but they corroborate your story, social media posts can be valuable. 


An award-winning Nashville wrongful termination attorney on your side. 

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