It’s been about ten years since I first released How To Engineer Your Layoff to the world. One of the chapters talks specifically about The Family And Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The ebook is 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. During a bull market, many jobs are more bearable as people tend to get raises and promotions. Ironically, it’s during a bear market where book sales will probably skyrocket. Employees nervously want try to figure out what’s in their future during uncertain times. 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. This 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 Financial Samurai’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 it 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. Starting Financial Samurai during the economic downturn was my catharsis. And 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 about using the Family Medical Leave Act to break free.
Using The FMLA To Break Free
Thought I’d share a success story with you. I purchased your book online.
I’d been working at my company for nearly 11 years and things changed a lot. I found myself 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.
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 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 FMLA came up. I’m not sure if they were bluffing, but when I began pursuing the use of FMLA, 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.
Then, 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 and got my severance check a week later.
Thank you for making your method available. My wife is happy and astonished and I can hardly believe it myself!
Everything Is Negotiable
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 Protects Employees
FMLA essentially gives employees the ability to take care of life’s many twists and turns without fear of punishment or getting laid off. 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 recently expanded it to over 200 pages with new resources, strategies, and additional case studies thanks to tremendous reader feedback.
Updated for 2021 and beyond.