Forced Resignation: How is it Different from Termination?

At first glance, being essentially forced into resigning from your job can look a lot like getting fired. In both cases, your employer no longer wants you to work at the company and takes the steps necessary to remove you from your position. But despite the shared goal of removing you from your job, being asked to leave your company is not the same as being fired.

The key difference between forced resignation and termination is your level of agency throughout the process of leaving your company. When you are terminated, your employment with the company is over immediately. Termination might or might not come with a severance package. When you are asked to voluntarily resign from your position, you hold greater leverage against your employer. You have time to think about your employer’s request and weigh your options, which are generally complying with his or her request or being terminated. Although your employment with the company is effectively over at this point, you do hold a greater level of bargaining power when you are asked to resign. This includes a better sense of control when determining your severance package.

Why Would an Employer Ask an Employee to Resign?

There are a few reasons why an employer might ask an employee to resign from his or her job rather than firing him or her. One of these reasons is the desire to maintain a positive relationship with the employee after he or she leaves. This can ultimately be because the employer has to eliminate the employee due to budget issues but does not want to outright state this. Another possible reason is to avoid a wrongful termination claim. If the employer wants to eliminate the employee but does not have just cause to do so, the employer might offer the employee a lucrative deal upon his or her resignation. This deal, known as a severance package, might include continuing his or her salary and benefits for a specified length of time following the resignation on the condition that he or she not take legal action against or otherwise publicly disparage the employer.

If you are asked to resign from your job, it is important to recognize why you are being asked to do this. Do not be afraid to simply ask your supervisor why the company wants you to leave.

Creating Unbearable Working Conditions

Sometimes, an employer who wants to get rid of one or more employees does not ask them to resign, but creates an unbearable working environment for them in the hope that they will quit. This can include pay cuts, harassment, reduced responsibilities, fewer perks and a greater workload without raising the employees’ pay.

Do not allow yourself to be forced out of your job. If you experience changed conditions at work, talk to your employer about these changes to determine why they occurred. Take note of these changes as they occur – you might need to prove them later on if you opt to file a wrongful termination claim.

If You Are Asked to Resign…

Ask your supervisor why you are being asked to leave the company. His or her answer can help you determine the best way to handle the request and determine the best course of action. Do not allow yourself to be bullied into resigning on the spot. Tell your employer that you will need time to think about your decision. During this time, seek legal counsel to determine how to proceed with leaving your company.

Both decisions have their benefits and their drawbacks. While you are meeting with your employment lawyer, consider how these benefits and drawbacks can come into play with your individual circumstances.

By resigning voluntarily, you:

  • Have a better chance of negotiating an adequate severance package. 
  • Will have “resignation” officially stated as your reason for leaving the company, rather than “termination.” This can be important when you are searching for another job, especially if your current employer has the right to disclose your reason for termination with prospective new employers.
  • Have greater control over how you present your reasons for leaving the company to future prospective employers.

But resigning can also prevent you from receiving unemployment coverage and more importantly, filing a wrongful termination claim against the company if you feel you have been wrongfully terminated. Do not resign if you have been a victim of any type of discriminatory behavior. Some examples of scenarios in which you should not resign include:

  • If you recently started or attempted to start or join a labor union.
  • If you have experienced sexual harassment from your supervisor or a colleague.
  • If you have made a discrimination complaint to your company’s Human Resources department or filed a discrimination claim with the EEOC.

If your attorney feels it is in your best interest to resign, work with them to draft a severance agreement that allows you to be financially comfortable without stifling your ability to look for new employment in your field. If you and your attorney determine that it is in your best interest to wait to be fired, simply do so without becoming emotional or doing anything out of anger that can come back to haunt you in the future. Calmly report to work the next day and expect to be let go. In many cases where an employee is given the option to resign but does not take it, he or she is terminated within a short period of time.

After Termination

After you have been terminated, start working on your wrongful termination claim with your attorney. Provide him or her with as much evidence as you can detailing your termination and your employer’s reasons for it. This can include documentation of the conversation with your employer where you were asked to resign.

Your claim can take time to resolve. Be prepared to wait months or even a few years to see its conclusion. During the investigation, cooperate with the EEOC by providing any evidence or testimonials they ask for. If the investigation does not end with a settlement, you might have to take your claim to court to have it resolved through litigation.