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Human Resources/Exit Interview after Termination

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Hi Brian, I'm hoping you can give me some advice here. I recently moved across county to a small town where I began a job working for the county. The county policy is that all new hires are probationary employees for the first 6 months, and the policy handbook clearly states probationary employees can be let go for any reason with no advanced warning.

There were 12 of us in the office (that is all they can have due to budget). I started in late May. Mid-July one of my coworkers gave her 2 week notice and they started the hiring process to replace her. The opening was posted on the county website (as all job openings with the county are).

My boss stated several times during meetings etc what a strong pool of applicants they had received and they did a group interview. I was told during my interview process that they had less interest in the position than they typically do, and I know from speaking with my coworkers that the reason I didn't go through a group interview was because they didn't have a large enough group of qualified applicants when I was hired.

As I'm sure is typical in a very small town several of the applicants who participated in the group interview were personally known by people in the office. Around this time my boss began making comments to me such as IF I survive probation etc.

Last Wednesday I was let go. I saw this coming figuring she wanted to bring in more than one of these new applicants to replace my coworker who had just left. I knew I was easily expendable. When I was told by my boss at the end of the day it would be my last day and she was ending my probation early I simply said "ok." I didn't question her or debate it.

The office manager made comments as to how "gracious" I was as I cleaned out my desk. I was a bit taken back by the comments my boss made in terminating me though. Since I simply said "ok" and didn't ask for an explanation or try to protest being let go I would have thought she'd have left it at that, but she went on about how I had such a weak resume and told me that when she hired me HR had said "Really!?" and were shocked she was giving me a chance. She also said she'd be happy to be a reference for me when I begin looking for a new job.

I had contacted HR asking about my insurance benefits and about the mandatory retirement program I had paid into (wanting those funds back now that I'm no longer employed) and was told I need to do an exit interview. I don't quite see the point and feel like this can only be used against me in some way (or for them to cover themselves).

What would you advise me to do? I feel they are implying if I refuse this exit interview they will make it difficult for me to obtain the money taken from my checks for the mandatory retirement savings program, and clearly I need access to all available funds now that I'm out of a job. Should I decline to answer any specific questions or what is the best way to handle this exit interview?

Thanks in advance for your answer.

Answer
Bethany,

Attached is a bit of information for you about what is referred to as "Employment At-Will".  Basically is means that without a contract, ANY person can be fired or laid off with no reason at any time with or without notice.  This EQUALLY applies if a person wants to quit or resign with or without notice.   So, either party may end the work relationship.

This is barring any obvious issues such terminations or layoffs resulting from discrimination, crimes or violations of public policy, or terminations that could violate an implied contract of employment.   

Read the link for info.
http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2001/01/art1full.pdf

As far as the money you paid into your investment / retirement fund from your earnings, the employer whether county or otherwise can't keep that for any reason.   If you also wanted to get back money they paid on your behalf, like matching funds or being partially or fully vested, that would be decided on the terms of the investment agreement.   But YOUR money you paid in via payroll re-direction is yours.

It might take 1-2 months or less to get the money, but be patient.

As far as you feeling you are being forced to have an exit interview,  it is not so.  You DO NOT need to attend an exit interview as a condition to get your money.

As far as a reference letter,  you could take the letter,  or tell them you dont think a reference from them would really help  :)

I hope this helps you in your decision and good luck in finding new work.  You are likely better off working elsewhere.  If asked why the job ended, tell them "politics". !

Best to you,

Brian.

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Brian Phillips

Expertise

Foreign and US university students -*PLEASE*- DO NOT waste your time asking for my opinions, comments or analysis of your homework questions. Homework questions are not answered and are rejected. I am happy to help answer questions asked by employees and employers regarding United States based state and Federal wage and hour, OT, Fair labor standards, FMLA, COBRA, Recruiting, Interviewing techniques, employee manuals, discipline, terminations/quits, unemployment, HRIS rollout, Employee Leasing or Staffing company cost analysis, day to day scenarios, work situations and more. Essentially a well rounded HR generalist who operates Harvis, Inc., a human resource consulting and service business based in Northeastern Pennsylvania "NEPA". http://www.harvis.org

Experience

At Harvis, Inc., we provide Human Resource products, services and advice to small businesses that may not have the time or resources to hire a full time HR department. For larger companies with HR managers in place, we compliment their expertise to help with time consuming or time sensitive projects like updating policy manuals, screening and interviewing and more. We make workplaces better by becoming that 1/2 person they need to help handle HR responsibilities on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Formerly responsible for all Human Resource activity for a staffing agency with 2,500 annual employees as well as an employee leasing / PEO business with 1,500 annual employees. Designed and implemented the HR structure to support hundreds of clients in excess of $ 500 million in payroll volume over career in Human Resources.

Organizations
* President 2006- Harvis Inc. HR Services * President 2010-13 Business Association of the Greater Shickshinny Area - Shickshinny PA * President 2013- ShickshinnyForward Not for Profit Community Long Term Revitalization Organization and former member of varios Chambers of Commerce and HR Taskforce, former President of NBC Business Club 2 years

Education/Credentials
Bloomsburg University - 1993 BS Marketing, Bloomsburg Pennsylvania and Luzerne County Community College - 1991 Business Administration, Nanticoke Pennsylvania

Awards and Honors
* Better than average - 20/10 vision * Bestowed with an occasional "Thank You" from clients and their employees.

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