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Use The Family And Medical Leave Act To Negotiate A Severance

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It’s been three years since I first released How To Engineer Your Layoff to the world. It’s become a niche product specific to helping people break free from a job they no longer care about by negotiating a severance. Growing old and being filled with regret is a terrible way to live.



Negotiating a severance is not easy, and this bull market has made jobs more bearable as people more often get the raises and promotions they hoped for. Ironically, it’s during a bear market where book sales will probably skyrocket as employees nervously try to figure out what’s in their future. I just realized that my book is actually an income hedge. Sweet!

Negotiating Is Hard, People Want Easy

Figuring out a way to get laid off goes against the mainstream, which is why my book will probably never become a mainstream hit. Regular people don’t want to take the risk of even temporarily becoming unemployed to do something else. They’d rather suffer in silence, or complain to their colleagues about their crazy micromanager bosses at the water cooler.

Alas, since the book’s publication, book sales have only grown at a pedestrian pace compared to the growth rate of ONIG Financial Blog’s traffic. Creating your own product is not easy, but everybody should give it a shot, especially in a low interest rate environment where cash generating assets are gold.

I didn’t write my book to get rich and famous. I wrote my book because I was going through an uncertain transition in my life after 11 years at one company. Plenty of other people I knew felt like getting out as well. Just like starting ONIG Financial Blog during the economic downturn was my catharsis, writing this book was my way of dealing with the fear of leaving a large paycheck for an uncertain future. Besides, if I didn’t write the book fresh after receiving a severance, I knew I never would.



Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from book readers. Here’s some new fascinating insight I will incorporate in my second edition about using the Family Medical Leave Act to break free.

Using The FMLA To Break Free

Hi Sam,

I had been working at my company for nearly 11 years. During that time, things had changed for me a lot. I found myself, through a series of reorgs and reassignments in a role that I had no interest in and was not willing to stay in for long. It was very bureaucratic, unfulfilling, and soul draining. Fortunately, I had been negotiating a new job at another company and wished there was a way to get severance. Funny how months before I was praying to keep my job during a round of layoffs, now I found myself praying to be laid off.

I pretty much fell into the sweet spot for the ideal candidate you outline, but the company wasn’t planning anymore layoffs.  Using the guidance in your book, I suggested a hardship to my boss that I was facing with my aging parents in another state. I didn’t even have to ask him to take time to think about it. He suggested taking some time to think and we’d reconvene in a week or so to discuss it again.

At first, I didn’t get a bite, but was told they don’t offer volunteer layoffs, and it would set a bad precedence in the company, so it was off the table. We began exploring other ideas and the Family Medical Leave Act came up. I’m not sure if they were bluffing, but when I began pursuing the use of Family Medical Leave Act, which I did intend to exercise, things quickly changed. The next day I was called in for an urgent meeting where a layoff with severance was offered. I accepted it with gratitude.

Again, following your guidance, I made sure the record indicated this was voluntary and they agreed. I was given three months severance which included a month of insurance for COBRA coverage! About a week later I left the company with a signed legal document, and got my severance check a week after that.

Thank you for making your method available. My wife is happy and astonished thinking that I’m the only person she knows that would find instruction on getting laid off, and then actually following through with it successfully. I can hardly believe it myself!

Regards,

Doug

Doug’s feedback reminds us that everything is negotiable. It’s up to you to bring the discussion to the table. Speaking to your employer about a severance may feel like you’re going up against Goliath. But I can assure you that you’ve got a lot more rights than you know, especially if you’ve been at your firm for a long period of time. Plenty of people I’ve consulted with over the past years have received severance packages when they originally thought it was impossible.

Let’s look into what the Family and Medical Leave Act is. The details below come from the United States Department Of Labor.

Family and Medical Leave Act

The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Eligible employees are entitled to:

  • Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
    • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
    • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
    • to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
    • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
    • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or
  • Twenty-six work weeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the service member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).


FMLA essentially provides employees with the ability to take care of life’s many twists and turns without fear of getting laid off or punished. You know, like getting fired after giving birth. We all know that life gets in the way. We might be happy and healthy now, but things can turn bad real fast.

From an employer’s perspective, twelve workweeks of leave is a long time to be without an employee, even if s/he is not paid. You can see how an employer might be more open to negotiating a severance if you highlight your desire for FMLA because they are going to lose you anyway. The employer might as well find some amicable arrangement so they can get on with finding your replacement ASAP.

The last thing your employer wants to happen is for you to check out for three months, and then dilly dally for another several months before deciding to quit. That would be a massive productivity loss.

Understand Your Employer’s Concerns

It’s much better to have an open conversation to figure out how your departure can best help your employer. My employer was fearful that if I left, business would decline. Given I generated many multiples more in revenue than my compensation, losing revenue, market share, and client votes were all big risks. Another fear my employer had was me leaving to go to a competitor. This happens all the time in the finance industry (or any industry for that matter), but I told them I wanted to retire from the business and do something entrepreneurial instead.



By offering to train my subordinate for as long as they wanted in order for the business not to fall off a cliff once I departed, I showed good faith. It was also my job to sell my employer they’d do better without me by highlighting how much they’d save in compensation cost, by laying off someone who didn’t fully want to be there. If you’re a good salesperson, you can convince your employer everything will be OK, which it was.

Since every employer is trying to maximize productivity, the FMLA is another powerful tool for severance negotiation. Utilize FMLA as skillfully as you would utilize asking for a sabbatical to plant the seeds of doubt in your employer’s mind. If you do it well, a new journey awaits!

You can buy the book here: How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye or by clicking the buy now button.

I first published the book in 2012 and have since expanded it to 180 pages from 100 pages in the 3rd edition thanks to tremendous reader feedback and successful case studies. 

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