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Merry Christmas! You’re Fired

I’d tell you that your job is safe over the holidays because of good will towards men, etc., but I’d be lying.  Since most companies have a fiscal year which runs from September to September, decisions regarding staffing for the next fiscal year are usually made in the late fall.  Terminations are put in motion at the end of the fiscal year year, just in time for the holidays, and right before your bonus is supposed to be paid.  This way, your employer will get the most bang for their buck.  That is, they save the bucks by not paying your bonus, and you go out with a bang.

Every Christmas, I get calls from stunned employees, mostly lower level employees in the financial industry, who were sacked immediately before or after the holidays. This happens because employers in investment banks, accounting firms, etc. – really, any number of white collar professions – hire larger numbers of junior employees at low pay with the expectation that very few of these employees will end up making the leap to more responsibility and higher pay.  After a few years, some employees will need to be trimmed from your class to create room for the salaries of incoming grunts.

If you are struggling with a termination during the holidays, you have my sympathies.  In my experience, this breed of termination is particularly hard to swallow because it simply cannot be understood.  The reality is that most holiday terminations are made with post-fiscal year fatigue when the brass is looking forward to next year’s revenue and not paying careful attention to staffing.  The only reason they might turn their attention to the grunts would be to make lazy decisions which allow them to consolidate jobs and redistribute the bonuses.  That means somebody has to go.

If I were you, I’d take some comfort in knowing that these holiday terminations are a predetermined part of the business cycle.   And since financial industry and other white collar employers require employment-related disputes to be resolved in arbitration (in FINRA, for example) where employees receive the benefit of the doubt, your bonus is far from gone.  You can dispute your employer’s callous nonpayment of your bonus and, in the process, push to get answers on the real reasons for your termination.  Discriminatory motives may come to light; the discovery process can be illuminating.  In fact, I am currently handling a matter where my client, a woman in the financial industry, was bounced between business units and when the music stopped, she didn’t have a chair.  Since she was stuck between units, she was a perfect candidate for layoff.  She was told, “We just didn’t have a place for you.”  They did, however, have a place for her male colleague who had a lower performance rating and less experience, as we have learned through discovery in her bonus dispute.

Here’s my advice: go ahead and feel bad for yourself during the holidays – watch “It’s a Wonderful Life,” (it’s about ruining your career during the holidays) but only give yourself two weeks to sulk.  After you’re finished, throw away the nasty fruitcake you’ve been eating, go back to the gym, and hire a lawyer.  Fight back; you’ll get answers, possibly your bonus, and the satisfaction that you didn’t accept your employer’s casual disregard for your contributions.


Christopher Davis is an experienced employment litigator specializing in class actions, overtime wage recovery, discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and Wall Street bonus disputes. Before entering private practice, Mr. Davis served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office where he prosecuted violent crimes as a member of the Sex Crimes Unit.

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