Work and Employment

Termination Letter: What Employees Need to Know

In this guide, we'll explain what should be included in a termination letter, instances when providing one is legally required, how to request this letter if needed, and circumstances where seeking legal help is advised.

Chelsea Spinos, Writer
Immigration lawyer at Manifest dressed in glasses and blue shirt

By:

Chelsea Spinos

Chelsea Spinos is a contributing writer for Manifest Law. She covers all topics related to U.S. visas and green cards. She is passionate about helping people navigate their immigration journey with clarity and confidence.

Reviewer:

Timothy Lenahan, Esq.

Timothy R. Lenahan is the lead Employment lawyer at Manifest Law. He has experience with all facets of employment law.

6 min read • June 20, 2024

Non-compete agreement
Non-compete agreement
Non-compete agreement

Key takeaways

A termination letter is an official notice that your working relationship with the company has ended.

In the U.S., employers are not generally required by federal law to give you a letter of termination.

Even if you choose not to sign the letter of termination, you’re still entitled to certain payments.

You should seek help from an employment lawyer if you have reason to believe you were wrongfully terminated, faced discrimination or retaliation, or other violations of your employment contract.

Getting let go from a job is never easy, but understanding your rights and obligations can help make the transition smoother. 

One crucial document you may encounter is a termination letter from your former employer. This official notice outlines the details surrounding the end of your employment, including the reason for termination, your last day of work, and information about final pay and benefits.

Although not mandated in every situation, requesting a termination letter provides valuable documentation as you navigate next steps. With clear information in hand, you can better assess your circumstances and options moving forward.


In this guide, we explain what should be included in your termination letter, when a termination letter is required by law, how to request a termination letter, and when to seek help from an employment lawyer if you believe that you were wrongfully terminated.

Non-compete agreement
Non-compete agreement
Non-compete agreement

What is a termination letter?

What is a termination letter?

A termination letter is an official notice from your employer that informs you your job with the company is ending. This letter will usually explain why you are being let go, tell you your last day of work, and provide details about your final paycheck and benefits. It also may include important information about returning company property or other next steps.

What should be included in the termination letter?

What should be included in the termination letter?

A letter of termination should be clear and thorough, including all of the relevant details for your departure from the company. Here’s what the termination letter should include:

Employee information

Date of the letter

Termination details

Final pay and benefits

Return of company property

Non-compete agreements

Severance package (if applicable)

Contact information

Employee acknowledgment

  • Your full name

  • Your job title

  • The department you work in

  • The date the letter is written and given to you

  • The reason why your employment is ending (e.g., performance issues, company restructuring, etc.)

  • Your last working day with the company

  • Details about your final paycheck, including any payment for unused vacation or sick leave

  • Information about how your benefits, like health insurance, will be affected and how long they will continue

  • Information on how to apply for COBRA if applicable

  • Instructions on returning company property (e.g., keys, ID badges, laptops, phones)

  • The deadline for returning this property

  • Reminders about any agreements you need to follow after leaving, such as non-compete or confidentiality agreements

  • Details of any severance pay or package you are being offered

  • Any conditions you need to meet to receive the severance package, such as signing a release of claims

  • Contact details for the HR department or a specific company representative if you have any questions or need further assistance

  • A space for you to sign and date the termination letter, acknowledging that you have received and understood the details of your termination

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Non-compete agreement
Non-compete agreement

Do I need to sign the termination letter?

Do I need to sign the termination letter?

When you receive a termination letter, you might wonder if signing it is necessary. Signing a termination letter usually means you’re acknowledging that you’ve received and understood the letter’s contents.

It doesn’t mean you agree with the reasons for your termination or accept the termination itself. Your signature is just a formality to show that you’ve been notified properly.

In the context of sexual harassment in the workplace, quid pro quo harassment is defined by several characteristics. These include…


  • Conditioned benefits: An employee is offered job benefits — like promotions, raises, or favorable assignments — in exchange for sexual favors. Conversely, an employee might face negative consequences — like demotion, dismissal, or retaliation — for rejecting sexual advances. Sexual advances does not mean sex, but could mean going out on dates, kisses and romantic touching.

  • Power imbalance: Typically, quid pro quo harassment involves a person in a position of authority — such as a supervisor or manager — who has the power to influence the victim.

  • Direct impact: This form of sexual harassment in the workplace directly affects the employee’s job status, benefits, and ability to do their work well.


Do any of these characteristics fit a scenario you’re experiencing at work? If so, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at Manifest Law. You can book a free consultation where we will listen to your story, assess the strength of your case, and get you the legal support you may need.

Review before signing

Before you sign, make sure to carefully read the entire letter. It’s important to understand why you’re being terminated, your last working day, and details about your final paycheck and benefits. 


If anything is unclear or if you have concerns, ask your employer or the HR department for more information. 


If you feel uncomfortable with any part of the letter, especially for severance agreements or non-compete agreements, consider talking to an employment lawyer before signing. Our team at Manifest Law can review your termination letter and other agreements and provide guidance.

In the context of sexual harassment in the workplace, quid pro quo harassment is defined by several characteristics. These include…


  • Conditioned benefits: An employee is offered job benefits — like promotions, raises, or favorable assignments — in exchange for sexual favors. Conversely, an employee might face negative consequences — like demotion, dismissal, or retaliation — for rejecting sexual advances. Sexual advances does not mean sex, but could mean going out on dates, kisses and romantic touching.

  • Power imbalance: Typically, quid pro quo harassment involves a person in a position of authority — such as a supervisor or manager — who has the power to influence the victim.

  • Direct impact: This form of sexual harassment in the workplace directly affects the employee’s job status, benefits, and ability to do their work well.


Do any of these characteristics fit a scenario you’re experiencing at work? If so, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at Manifest Law. You can book a free consultation where we will listen to your story, assess the strength of your case, and get you the legal support you may need.

Non-compete agreement
Non-compete agreement
Non-compete agreement

Is an employer required to give you a termination letter when they fire you?

Is an employer required to give you a termination letter when they fire you?

At-will employment

At-will employment

In the United States, most employees work under the "at-will" employment arrangement. If you're an at-will employee, your employer can end your employment for any reason that's not discriminatory or against the law. 


Similarly, as an at-will employee, you can also choose to leave your job at any time, with or without notice.


However, some states, such as New York, do require a letter of termination regardless of whether you're an at-will employee or not. While it doesn’t need to be a formal termination letter, there needs to be some form of communication given.

Non-compete agreement
Non-compete agreement
Non-compete agreement

Laws for termination letters

Laws for termination letters

There’s no federal law in the U.S. that says employers must provide a termination letter. This means that, generally, it’s up to the employer whether they want to give you one or not.

However, some states have their own rules about termination letters. For example, in Arizona, employers are required to provide written notice of termination if the employee requests it. Other states might have different requirements or no specific rules at all.

Below are U.S. states with certain laws or regulations requiring termination letters or notices:

California

Connecticut

Georgia

Illinois

New Jersey

New York

Pennsylvania

California Labor Code Section 1089 requires employers to provide written notice of termination to employees who are terminated from employment.

Connecticut law requires employers to provide written notice of termination to employees upon request.

Georgia law requires employers to provide employees with a separation notice when they are terminated.

Illinois law requires employers to provide written notice of termination to employees who are terminated from employment.

New Jersey law requires employers to provide employees with a written notice of termination when they are terminated from employment.

New York Labor Law Section 195.1 requires employers to provide written notice of termination to employees when they are terminated from employment.

Pennsylvania law requires employers to provide employees with a written notice of termination when they are terminated from employment.

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Non-compete agreement
Non-compete agreement

When a termination letter is required

When a termination letter is required

Termination-related notices required by law

Termination-related notices required by law

The only termination-related notifications required by the government are enforced by the Consolidated Omnibus Benefits Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN).

COBRA

COBRA protects your rights for the continuation of health benefits. If you and your family lose health benefits due to unemployment or other reasons, you can elect to receive group health benefits for different periods of time. 


The goal behind COBRA is to ensure that you (and anyone else in your family covered by the employer-provided insurance) can maintain health insurance while you search for a new job. 


The WARN Act


The WARN Act provides notice to workers prior to a layoff. This act protects employees and their families by requiring employers with more than 100 employees to provide a 60-day notice of termination in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs.

Non-compete agreement
Non-compete agreement
Non-compete agreement

How to request a termination letter from your employer

How to request a termination letter from your employer

While employers are not legally required to provide a termination letter, it's a good idea to request one. A termination letter can be essential for legal purposes, if you decide to pursue legal action against your employer or if there are disputes about the terms of termination. 


A termination letter also serves as proof of your previous employment, which many companies require when considering you for new opportunities. It confirms the end date of your role and the circumstances around your exit from the company. Having this documentation on hand can save you from potential hassles during your job search.


If you find yourself in need of a termination letter, don't hesitate to request one from your former employer. The best approach is to reach out politely and directly to your previous supervisor, the HR department, or the person who communicated your termination. In a brief email or letter, simply explain that you need an official termination letter for your records, specifying the date of termination and the stated reason.

Request free consultation with Manifest Law today

Request free consultation
with Manifest Law today

Reach out to get an evaluation the strength of your case.

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Non-compete agreement
Non-compete agreement

When to Seek Help from a Lawyer

When to Seek Help from a Lawyer

As an employee, it's crucial to know when to seek help from a lawyer, especially during challenging times like termination. Whether it's understanding your rights, clarifying the termination process, or negotiating fair terms, a lawyer can provide invaluable support and ensure your best interests are protected.


Here are some situations where you may want to reach out to an employment lawyer for support.

Unclear or Wrongful Termination

If you're unsure why you were terminated or if the reason seems unfair, an employment lawyer can help clarify the situation. Forms of wrongful termination include:


  • Getting fired because of your race, gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics

  • Getting fired for whistleblowing (reporting illegal activities within the company)

  • Getting fired after requesting medical leave or reasonable accommodations for a disability

  • Getting fired for things that are protected by law, like refusing to work overtime without pay or taking time off when you're legally allowed to


If you were terminated for any of these reasons, it’s advised to reach out to a wrongful termination lawyer who can assess your case and guide you through the legal process.

Discrimination or Retaliation

Discrimination in the workplace refers to the unfair or unequal treatment of individuals or groups based on certain protected characteristics, such as race, gender, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or pregnancy. 


Retaliation is when your employer takes negative actions against you because you've spoken up about something unfair or illegal at work. 


If you believe you were terminated because of workplace discrimination or as retaliation, it's essential to seek legal advice. A lawyer can help protect your rights and explore options for legal action.

Violation of Employment Contract

If your termination seems to go against the terms of your employment contract, a lawyer can review the contract and advise you on your rights. They'll help review the agreement and suggest possible legal actions to take.

Severance Agreement Concerns

When you're asked to sign a severance agreement, especially if the terms are complex or seem unfavorable, it's crucial to have a lawyer review the document. They can ensure you understand the agreement fully and negotiate better terms if necessary.

Wage Disputes

If there are disagreements about your final paycheck, accrued benefits, or unpaid wages, a lawyer can assist in resolving these issues. They'll advocate for your rights and help ensure you receive what you're owed.

Non-Compete Agreement Issues

If you've signed non-compete or confidentiality agreements and you're unsure about your obligations after termination, a lawyer can provide expert guidance. They'll review the agreements and advise you on how to proceed while protecting your interests.


Check out our guide on the FTC Non-Compete Ban for potential changes to laws around non-compete agreements.

Frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

Is there any documentation I should have received along with the termination letter?

When you receive a termination letter, there are several important documents you should expect to receive along with it. 


Along with the termination letter, you should receive your final paycheck, which includes payment for any unpaid wages, accrued vacation time (in some cases), or other benefits owed to you up to your last day of work.

If you had employer-provided benefits, such as health insurance or retirement plans, you should receive information about how these benefits will be affected by your termination. This might include details about the continuation of benefits, such as COBRA coverage, and how to apply for them.


If you're eligible for a severance package, you should receive a severance agreement outlining the terms and conditions of the severance package being offered.

If any of these documents are missing or unclear, don't hesitate to reach out to the HR department or an employment lawyer if needed.

Am I entitled to a severance package?

Whether or not you’re entitled to any severance pay or benefits from your former employer depends on a few factors. 


Your first step is to check if your former company had such a policy and if you met the eligibility requirements based on your role, tenure, and reason for termination. If you had an official employment contract, review the agreement, as sometimes these include severance entitlements that protect you in the event of a termination without cause.


Even without an official policy, it doesn't hurt to inquire politely about a severance package. Employers sometimes provide separation benefits as a goodwill gesture, especially in cases of layoffs or restructuring. Our employment lawyers at Manifest Law have helped countless individuals negotiate severance packages — book a free consultation today.

Can I challenge the termination decision?

Yes, in some cases you may be able to challenge your termination decision from a former employer. 


If you believe you were terminated due to unlawful discrimination based on factors like race, gender, age, disability or other protected traits, you may have grounds to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


The challenging process can be complicated, so it's wise to consult an employment law attorney. Our team at Manifest Law can assess if your termination violates any laws or contractual rights and discuss the best way to advocate for yourself.

What is the minimum notice period for termination of employment?

In the United States, there's no federal law that sets a minimum notice period for ending employment. Most employees work under the "at-will" arrangement, meaning either the employer or the employee can end the job at any time, with or without notice, as long as it's not for discriminatory reasons or under the terms of a contract.

What will the company say if potential employers call for a reference?

When potential employers call your previous company for a reference, there are some legal guidelines that companies typically follow. 


By law, your previous employer can confirm basic details such as your job title, dates of employment, and salary. Generally, your employer can provide an honest assessment of your job performance and qualifications, as long as it is factual and doesn’t violate anti-discrimination laws.


However, many companies have a policy to provide only basic information, avoiding giving opinions about your performance. This is to minimize the risk of potential legal action, to protect themselves from potential defamation lawsuits.

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Avi Goldenberg

Principal attorney at Manifest Law

Speak to us today

Learn how much you may be owed!

Check mark in a circle icon

You deserve to be fairly treated at your workplace

Check mark in a circle icon

All calls are confidential and can be anonymous

Check mark in a circle icon

You are not obligated to hire us or proceed with the case

Fast response.
Same day free consultation.

Picture of Avi Goldenburg, principal attorney at Manifest law, smiling in eye glasses and a blue button up shirt in his office.

Avi Goldenberg

Principal attorney at Manifest Law

Speak to us today

Learn how much you may be owed!

Check mark in a circle icon

You deserve to be fairly treated at your workplace

Check mark in a circle icon

All calls are confidential and can be anonymous

Check mark in a circle icon

You are not obligated to hire us or proceed with the case

Fast response. Same day free consultation.

Picture of Avi Goldenburg, principal attorney at Manifest law, smiling in eye glasses and a blue button up shirt in his office.

Avi Goldenberg

Principal attorney at Manifest Law

Attorney Advertising. This website is intended for general informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and is no substitute for consulting a licensed attorney. Only an attorney can provide you with legal advice, and only after considering your specific facts and circumstances. You should not act on any information on this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney. manifestlaw.com is a product of Manifest Law PLLC. Manifest Law PLLC is a law firm operating as a New York Professional Corporation. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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Attorney Advertising. This website is intended for general informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and is no substitute for consulting a licensed attorney. Only an attorney can provide you with legal advice, and only after considering your specific facts and circumstances. You should not act on any information on this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney. manifestlaw.com is a product of Manifest Law PLLC. Manifest Law PLLC is a law firm operating as a New York Professional Corporation. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

2024 Manifest Copyright. All Rights Reserved.

Attorney Advertising. This website is intended for general informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and is no substitute for consulting a licensed attorney. Only an attorney can provide you with legal advice, and only after considering your specific facts and circumstances. You should not act on any information on this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney. manifestlaw.com is a product of Manifest Law PLLC. Manifest Law PLLC is a law firm operating as a New York Professional Corporation. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

2024 Manifest Copyright. All Rights Reserved.