What’s the difference between termination and firing?

I am unclear if I was laid off or fired. I was told I was let go because upper management chose to part ways. I was given a “Termination Agreement” which once I signed, I would be given a severance check. I want that clarified before I sign anything. What is the difference between being fired and terminated?

Posted 02-11-2009

Ann Kiernan replies:

Practically, there is no difference. Either way, you are involuntarily out of a job. Often, people use “firing” to indicate a termination for cause. Since you are being offered a severance package, it sounds like management is simply exercising its prerogative as an at-will employer, and not discharging you for misconduct.

If your employer has 20 or more employees and you are 40 or older, federal law has certain legal requirements for an agreement in which you give up your right to sue the company in exchange for severance pay. You should consult a local employment attorney to make sure the agreement you have been given meets all legal requirements.

Good luck!

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.