If you leave your job, “L.E.A.V.E.” is how you spell “Must-Take Checklist.”

“I would rather have people laugh at my economies
than weep for my extravagance.”
– King Oscar II of Sweden (1829 – 1907)

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: Though only 27 years old, and out of graduate school for only three years, Nelson had developed a widespread reputation as a very creative Software Engineer. He loved his work, and devoted most of his waking time to it. Since starting his first job right after graduate school, he’d been promoted twice, had two articles published in professional journals, and had been invited to speak at a prestigious trade conference. Even with his success, Nelson was surprised to receive a telephone call from a recruiter inquiring if he was interested in working for a direct competitor, with a hefty pay raise. The interviews went well, the offer was hard to resist, and so Nelson took the new job, resigned, and made his move.

About six weeks later, our telephone rang. It was Nelson; he had been referred to us by one of our clients. He had a question: “When should I expect to receive the monies that my former employer owes me?” When we asked him why he felt his former employer owed him money, his response was simple: “The expenses of my last two business trips, and for my last two quarterly bonuses that I never received.” When we asked Nelson why he hadn’t requested these monies when he resigned, or soon thereafter, his answer was equally simple: “Too busy.”

We went to bat for Nelson but, unfortunately, came up empty-handed. As to Nelson’s business-related expenses, his former employer had a strict policy that requires employee requests for reimbursement of business expenses be submitted within thirty (30) days of their being incurred. As to Nelson’s last quarterly bonus, his employer’s attorneys claimed that the company was loathe to pay a bonus payment to someone working for a direct competitor. Though we felt the law was clearly on Nelson’s side, because he had earned the bonus, the amount in question just wasn’t worth the hefty price of a lawsuit. Total losses to Nelson: about $25,000. Total gain to Nelson, if any: hopefully, a lesson learned.

LESSON TO LEARN: What happened to Nelson happens very frequently. In the anxiety, rush and excitement of moving from one job to another, many people simply fail to take stock of what they are owed by their employer, and to make an appropriate request for it. The most common result is simply an unnecessary loss. Sometimes the loss is not great, but whether minimal or substantial, the loss is simply unnecessary – and preventable. Generally, the law says, in effect, “Employee beware.” Don’t expect your former employer or its HR department to do this for you, because they simply won’t. And the situation is worse for those who have signed a severance agreement: they’ve legally given up any rights to come back with an “Oh . . I forgot . . . ” plea.

The lesson is simple: give a few moments’ serious consideration to what is yours, what you’ve earned, and what is due you, and make appropriate request for it, at the time you leave a job. To help you do so, we’ve assembled this “Must-Take Checklist” that categorizes the “things to remember” into five categories, which together and conveniently spell “L.E.A.V.E.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Whenever you leave a job – whether voluntarily or involuntarily – take a few moments to create a detailed list of all things that are yours, that you’ve earned and/or are due you, and make appropriate, written request for each. No one can list all things that might be due you, but these five categories should help you remember all that are due you:

1. “L” = Legally Protected: Think “the law.” Certain things are yours to take with you when you leave a job, according to the law. As a general rule, these include (a) salary through your last day you are employed; (b) your personal property, (c) your unhindered right to apply for benefits for unemployment, workers compensation and unpaid disability payments, and (d) your official notice if you are eligible to continue health care coverage through the federal “COBRA” law. Several of our clients have forgotten that their paychecks for each week worked were not paid until the following Friday; if this is the case where you work, expect a paycheck one week after your last day. If you are denied anything the law says is rightfully yours, you may get help collecting it from your state’s State Labor Board, or its Department of Labor.

2. “E” = Expense Reimbursements: Think “repayment.” Almost every employee is entitled to reimbursement for reasonable business-related expenses. Many employees are entitled, as well, to repayment of other items, such as (a) tuition bills, (b) relocation and return-home costs, (c) automobile lease payments, (d) health care deductibles, and (e) home office expenses. Most employers require submission of receipts and requests within a certain period of time. Because it may take up to sixty (60) days for some credit card companies to get their bills to you, you may very well miss these deadlines. Worst off are those employees who by habit don’t get around to tallying up their expense reports for months on end. One client of ours who submitted expense reports a week after he changed jobs failed to collect on 9 months of expenses due him because the employer claimed only current employees, not former employees, are reimbursed. The rule is simple: if you don’t submit requests for reimbursements as soon as possible, and while you are employed, you are literally throwing away money.

3. “A” = Accrued but Not Received: Think “other than compensation.” Though not required by the law in many states, most employers pay their departing employees for accrued but unpaid vacation or paid-time-off (“P.T.O.”) days. Likewise, you may be wise to enjoy at this time amenities of your job that you had not planned to take advantage of, as of the anticipated date of departure, such as paid health club membership, financial planning services, life insurance premiums, the right to take continuing education courses, and yearly dues for trade association memberships. You should take note, and take advantage, of your accrued rights to such things, for after you leave it will probably be too late.

When leaving employment – for any reason – ALWAYS ask to be paid for Accrued But Unused Vacation. Use our “Model Letter Requesting Payment for Accrued but Unused Vacation – with 12 Great Reasons.” It shows you “What to Say and How to Say It.”™ To get your copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

4. “V” = Vested Equity: Think “investments.” Most employees who are provided various forms of “equity” by their employers, including company stock, stock options, so-called share appreciation rights (“S.A.R.”s), and the like must take steps to secure those rights before leaving a job. Likewise, those with pension rights, retirement rights, even rights in patents or copyrights, need to take steps to protect those rights, often by specified deadlines. For example, your unvested stock options may be eligible for accelerated vesting upon departure if your departure is in the midst of a layoff. If so, you may have to request such vesting to take place, or lose the right. Some rights to company stock must be exercised before resignation, or within thirty (30) days of leaving, to be protected. You would be wise to speak with your employer’s benefits department, a financial advisor, or your accountant, about the steps you need to take in this regard.

5. “E” = Earned but Not Paid: Think “compensation.” Last, but surely not least, many departing employees acquiesce in their not being paid what they’ve earned. Examples we’ve seen include (a) commissions earned but not yet paid, (b) bonuses earned in previous years but not yet paid, (c) possible rights to quarterly bonuses, or partial year’s bonuses, (d) 401(k) contributions earned but not yet deposited, (e) deferred compensation, and, (f) if in the midst or proximity to a reduction in workforce, severance payments.

If you leave behind valuable payments, benefits and entitlements, you have only yourself to blame. The five categories of “must-take” items spelled out by “L.E.A.V.E.” can act as your checklist, and if applied to your own transition, should help you “take it with you.” You can’t expect your employer to do this for you, and you can’t reasonably expect flexibility, understanding and/or empathy from your former employer, especially if you are now employed by a competitor.

One additional pointer: requests made for “L.E.A.V.E.” items should be made by email, for that provides a clear, permanent, and even date-stamped record of your having made timely request. Bear in mind that in this regard, and in this circumstance, “email is your faithful friend.” In negotiating and navigating at work, we can use all the “friends” we can find.

If you would like to obtain a “model” memo or a detailed checklist to help you resign from your job [click here].

SkloverWorkingWisdom™ emphasizes smart negotiating – and navigating – for yourself at work. When leaving one job for another, it’s important to take with you all you are due. It’s an important part of smart negotiating. Gaining maximum rewards – and not foolishly leaving any behind – is right there for your asking, if only you have the creativity, tenacity and belief in yourself to ask. But it takes more than luck to make that happen. It takes forethought, care and prudence, the essential ingredients in good negotiating.

Always be proactive. Always be creative. Always be persistent. And always do what you can to achieve for yourself, your family, and your career. Take all available steps to increase and secure employment “rewards” and eliminate or reduce employment “risks.” That’s what SkloverWorkingWisdom™ is all about.

A note about our Actual Case Histories: In order to preserve client confidences, and protect client identities, we alter certain facts, including the name, age, gender, position, date, geographical location, and industry of our clients. The essential facts, the point illustrated and the lesson to be learned, remain actual.