What to Do After Termination

What to Do After Termination?

Information on this page:


What do “discharged” and “laid off” mean?

For both discharges and layoffs, your employer is causing your unemployment. The difference comes in the employer’s reasoning. 

If your employer ends your employment and replaces you with someone else, you are considered to be discharged and must prove that you were not discharged for misconduct. 

If your employer is ending your employment for one of the following reasons, then you are considered to be laid off: 

  • Your employer has no work available
  • Your assignment ended
  • Your employer went out of business
  • Your position was eliminated
  • You’re required to participate in temporary classroom apprenticeship training
  • You’re a seasonal employee and the season ended
  • Your employer temporarily shut down for reasons such as weather, materials delay, natural disaster or temporary maintenance closure

I was fired, but my employer is saying I quit. What do I need to show at my hearing? 

Sometimes it is not clear whether a person quit their job or was discharged. To figure out what happened, the judge will look at (1) who initiated the job separation and (2) what the employer and the employee intended to do. To prove you were fired, you need to show that your employer caused your job to end and you never intended to quit your job. 

For example, did you ask for a reduction in hours, change in shift, or a leave of absence but get told not to return to work instead? Did you leave work early after an argument with a manager and come back the next day to find that your employer assumed you had quit? Situations like these may be considered discharges.


My employer told me that I was going to be fired, so I quit instead. What does that mean for my case?

If your employer tells you that you will be terminated in the future and you quit because of that information, the law considers you to have been discharged (fired). However, if you only assumed that you will be fired without your employer explicitly saying so, the law considers you to have quit voluntarily.


I was discharged, what do I need to show at my hearing?

If you were discharged from your job, your employer must prove you were terminated because of misconduct for you to be denied benefits. Misconduct is defined very specifically in the law (see below). If your employer can prove your actions amounted to misconduct, the judge will deny you benefits. At your hearing, your goal is to prove that you were not fired for misconduct. There are a few ways to do so:

  1. “I didn’t do it!” You can show that you did not do what your employer accuses you of doing. For example, if you were fired for stealing, you can show that it was not you who stole the item or money.
  2. “I did my best!” Tell the judge that your actions were not misconduct by showing that you made a good faith error in judgment; it was a one-time mistake; or that you just weren’t good at your job. Incompetence does not disqualify you from benefits. For example, if you were fired for having a short register, convince the judge that you gave incorrect change by accident.
  3. “They fired me for something else!” Convince the judge that your employer fired you for something different than what the employer is saying. For example, your employer says you were fired for repeated tardiness, but you were actually fired for trying to organize a union or taking legally-required breaks.

What is “misconduct”?

According to RCW 50.04.294, “misconduct” includes the following:

  • Willful or wanton disregard of the rights, title, and interests of the employer or a fellow employee;
  • Deliberate violations or disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of an employee;
  • Carelessness or negligence that causes or would likely cause serious bodily harm to the employer or a fellow employee; or
  • Carelessness or negligence of such degree or recurrence to show an intentional or substantial disregard of the employer’s interest.

Basically, the law says that you must do something purposefully to harm or potentially harm your employer. Or, you must have acted carelessly many times.


What are some examples of misconduct? 

The law specifically lists certain actions to be misconduct. The list can be found below and at RCW 50.04.294(2). Below are some examples of misconduct paraphrased from that list and some alternative explanations in parentheses that are not misconduct. If your employer is arguing you did one of the things below, see if the alternative explanation can be argued in your favor. 

  1. Refusing to do what your employer tells you to do (not understanding your employer’s directions; your employer’s directions would have put you in danger; your employer never asked you to do the task; you were never trained to do the task despite requesting training)
  2. You were warned several times about being late, and then you were fired after showing up late again (the repeated tardiness was caused by a medical issue or other problems outside of your control)
  3. Lying on timecards, stealing items, lying to your supervisor or co-workers (you completed your timecard inaccurately by accident; your timecard was actually accurate and your employer was lying; you accidentally took work property home and would have returned it; your employer misunderstood something you said)
  4. Not calling in or showing up for work (you could not call in or show up to work due to a medical or family emergency and you contacted your employer as soon as you were able to)
  5. Breaking the law while working, acting violent in the workplace
  6. You knew about a rule but you broke that rule anyway (you did not know the rule applied to you or your situation; you did your best not to break the rule but it was impossible not to)
  7. While working, you broke a law; by breaking that law, you were not able to do your job or you hurt your employer’s ability to do business

What is NOT misconduct?

The law specifically lists certain actions that are NOT misconduct. The list can be found below and at RCW 50.04.294(3). The italicized text in parentheses is NOT part of the statute. We put it there to help you understand the law. During your hearing, try to convince the judge that what you did was one of the following:

  1. Inefficiency, unsatisfactory conduct, or failure to perform well as the result of inability or incapacity (You were simply not good at your job; for example, you didn’t work fast enough or you were not able to perform certain aspects of the job);
  2. Inadvertence or ordinary negligence in isolated instances (You made a one-time mistake); or
  3. Good faith errors in judgment or discretion (You accidentally made an error in judgment).

These laws seem wrong, how can I change them?

Find and contact your legislator here: https://app.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder/