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Getting fired vs early retirement
Old 09-15-2011, 09:56 AM   #1
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Getting fired vs early retirement

I have reason to believe that I could be fired sometime in the next six months as my recent errors (and those I am responsible for catching) are being very closely monitored. I am a state employee in Georgia, and I have 26 years of service, which is more than enough to make me eligible for early retirement. I am 57, three years from being able to collect a full pension.

I had planned to stay until age 60, but with these recent developments, I'm wondering if I should cut my losses and opt for early retirement before they fire me. This way, I could keep my health benefits. I might have a way to avoid drawing down on my pension until I reach age 60, thereby avoiding the 7% per year penalty for early retirement.

Are there other things (besides meeting with my financial advisor, I mean) that I should consider before taking any action? What happens if my employer moves to fire me before the retirement process can be completed?
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Old 09-15-2011, 10:00 AM   #2
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You might want to talk to someone who is familiar with employment law as it specifically relates to your position, employer and contract (if there is one). If you are a member of a union that might be a good place to start.
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Old 09-15-2011, 10:02 AM   #3
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Maybe stop making the mistakes

If you have been working for 26 years, what has changed that now makes you a bad employee Fix that and you can work till 60...

If you were moved to a job you can not handle, see if you can move back to where you were and are comfortable with...
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Old 09-15-2011, 10:30 AM   #4
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Sorry you are feeling the heat. Sounds very uncomfortable. I used to manage a large group within the Federal govt., and this is based on my experience doing that:

1) Look at your last performance review (if you get them). See if it was clean and good, or if there were suggestions to improve. If all was well back then, what has changed? Can you fix it? If your performance has declined, are you being counseled, and offered a chance to improve?
2) If you are sure your current performance is no worse than it ever has been, document every action and word that leads you to suspect you are being singled out. While it's very hard to prove age discrimination under any circumstances, it will be impossible without documentation.
3) Find out what unemployment benefits you may be entitled to, if you are let go.
4) Get friendly with someone in HR who can address your question, "What happens if my employer moves to fire me before the retirement process can be completed?" I don't know anything about GA State Govt, but in my neck of the woods, that would happen only if you had done something very wrong, like cheat repeatedly on your time and attendance, steal valuable stuff, etc. Most times, once "they" decide they don't want you around, "they" don't care how you leave, as long as you're gone. Since "they" don't pay your retirement benefits, "they" don't usually have the incentive to do anything to prevent your getting them. Again, that is only based on my experience, which may be different from your situation.
5) Chart your expenses and figure out how much you will need to live on, then figure out how much of that you can get via unemployment, severance, retirement, and other sources if available.

Good luck,

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Want2Bfree View Post
I have reason to believe that I could be fired sometime in the next six months as my recent errors (and those I am responsible for catching) are being very closely monitored. I am a state employee in Georgia, and I have 26 years of service, which is more than enough to make me eligible for early retirement. I am 57, three years from being able to collect a full pension.

I had planned to stay until age 60, but with these recent developments, I'm wondering if I should cut my losses and opt for early retirement before they fire me. This way, I could keep my health benefits. I might have a way to avoid drawing down on my pension until I reach age 60, thereby avoiding the 7% per year penalty for early retirement.

Are there other things (besides meeting with my financial advisor, I mean) that I should consider before taking any action? What happens if my employer moves to fire me before the retirement process can be completed?
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Old 09-15-2011, 10:38 AM   #5
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Can you apply for a new job with the state just to round out your pension? Say, collect cash as a parking booth attendant for $25k a year just to get your years of service in? Not sure how your pension rules are set up, but if it is like most that tie your retirement benefit to highest year(s) of salary, you may not lose out on much.
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Old 09-15-2011, 11:17 AM   #6
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Do you have any debt? If you do try to eliminate it before anything happens with your job. Reducing your monthly cost of living will make the impending job loss a lot less stressful.
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Old 09-15-2011, 11:34 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Want2Bfree View Post
I have reason to believe that I could be fired sometime in the next six months as my recent errors (and those I am responsible for catching) are being very closely monitored. I am a state employee in Georgia, and I have 26 years of service, which is more than enough to make me eligible for early retirement. I am 57, three years from being able to collect a full pension.

I had planned to stay until age 60, but with these recent developments, I'm wondering if I should cut my losses and opt for early retirement before they fire me. This way, I could keep my health benefits. I might have a way to avoid drawing down on my pension until I reach age 60, thereby avoiding the 7% per year penalty for early retirement.

Are there other things (besides meeting with my financial advisor, I mean) that I should consider before taking any action? What happens if my employer moves to fire me before the retirement process can be completed?
1) are you a classified employee? If you are not they can just walk you out at anytime with zero notice.
If you are a classified employee there is a long process to get rid of you. Most managers will not go thru this, if they do you will have time to apply for early retirement. (someone from personnel should explain the process) I have heard that it can take over a year to get rid of a classified employee but have never seen it happen so I do not know the time line for sure.
2) you do have a way of not drawing you pension until you are 60. You keep your money in the Retirement System and You MUST pay the both sides of the Cobra or you cannot get health insurance when you retire. They
have very specific rules about all of this. They are suppose to tell you all of your rights etc., but their mistakes cost You not them.
3) you can go on their web site and get est. for early retirement and for waiting until you are 60. They will give you an ball park est. for both that is pretty accurate. If you do not know how to do this call the Georgia Retirement System. (404) 350-6300
Home - Employees' Retirement System of Georgia

4) the biggest dis. I see in waiting until you are 60 is (this is my understanding) if you die and are no longer working or receiving a pension all
your spouse gets back is what you put in. That is a BIG difference between that and what that person would receive if you still will working.
5) get everything in writing and have them show you where any info.is they give you is located and look it up to verify it.
6) You might (depending on the circm.) tell your boss you are thinking about
taking early retirement at such and such a date. that should stop the process of getting you fired. and buy you more time.

Depending on your circm. if the early retirement was enough I would take it.
that way you would def. have health insurance and your spouse would def. get something if you died.

I am not sure about them firing you while you are trying to get ER.
I would say no for most companies but ..... I would call the Georgia Retirement System ASAP and ask them. Again if they say you do not have to worry about getting fired while going thru the retirement process I would ask where I could see this info. in writing.

good luck and I cannot express enough don't believe anything they tell you until you see it in writing!!! Anything they tell you should be related to Employment Law or a Policy they have.

If you would like to talk to a lawyer I would highly recommend that you get someone who has experience with the State of GA.

PS - They can monitor your computer so if there is anything you do not want them to know I would wait until I was home.
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Old 09-15-2011, 11:40 AM   #8
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Doubling down and taking the time to double check work may catch errors. When under high stress, the errors creep in. Good luck.
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Old 09-15-2011, 12:47 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SJ1_ View Post
1) are you a classified employee? If you are not they can just walk you out at anytime with zero notice.
If you are a classified employee there is a long process to get rid of you. Most managers will not go thru this, if they do you will have time to apply for early retirement. (someone from personnel should explain the process) I have heard that it can take over a year to get rid of a classified employee but have never seen it happen so I do not know the time line for sure.
2) you do have a way of not drawing you pension until you are 60. You keep your money in the Retirement System and You MUST pay the both sides of the Cobra or you cannot get health insurance when you retire. They
have very specific rules about all of this. They are suppose to tell you all of your rights etc., but their mistakes cost You not them.
3) you can go on their web site and get est. for early retirement and for waiting until you are 60. They will give you an ball park est. for both that is pretty accurate. If you do not know how to do this call the Georgia Retirement System. (404) 350-6300
Home - Employees' Retirement System of Georgia

4) the biggest dis. I see in waiting until you are 60 is (this is my understanding) if you die and are no longer working or receiving a pension all
your spouse gets back is what you put in. That is a BIG difference between that and what that person would receive if you still will working.
5) get everything in writing and have them show you where any info.is they give you is located and look it up to verify it.
6) You might (depending on the circm.) tell your boss you are thinking about
taking early retirement at such and such a date. that should stop the process of getting you fired. and buy you more time.

Depending on your circm. if the early retirement was enough I would take it.
that way you would def. have health insurance and your spouse would def. get something if you died.

I am not sure about them firing you while you are trying to get ER.
I would say no for most companies but ..... I would call the Georgia Retirement System ASAP and ask them. Again if they say you do not have to worry about getting fired while going thru the retirement process I would ask where I could see this info. in writing.

good luck and I cannot express enough don't believe anything they tell you until you see it in writing!!! Anything they tell you should be related to Employment Law or a Policy they have.

If you would like to talk to a lawyer I would highly recommend that you get someone who has experience with the State of GA.

PS - They can monitor your computer so if there is anything you do not want them to know I would wait until I was home.
From what I know and from what I read... he is not worried about his retirement, but health insurance if he gets fired...

Retirement benefits can not be lost just because you are fired... you have earned them and will get them... (as long as the state does not go under that is)....
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Thanks!
Old 09-15-2011, 03:04 PM   #10
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Thanks!

Many thanks to all of you for your comments!

Yes, I am a classified employee, so I guess it would take quite a while to fire me, if it comes to that.

And, yes, of course, not making any more mistakes would be the ideal possible course of action, but it is not very realistic, given the volume of documents I produce and oversee. I have definitely made the case that the errors are a product of my workload, which continues to increase (as do the number extra hours I am putting in nearly every day). I double and triple-check my work and even have people review it for me afterward, but typos and other small errors manage to sneak through.

I wish I had an answer to the question about why my employer suddenly finds my performance not up to par. I received a very good performance evaluation in March with nothing said about errors, then received a verbal warning in April. Now, it's been put in writing and I'm on 6-mo. probation. I don't feel my performance has nosedived, just that the workload has increased and so has the visibility of my work. Throughout my 26 years of service, I have always gotten great evaluations, but most of those years were spent with other related state agencies, so I am a fairly new employee at my current job (1 year).

Anyway, I will ask more questions of HR about the firing process. I have an appt. next week with the people that administer our pensions, and I will find out more about COBRA, etc.
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Old 09-15-2011, 03:30 PM   #11
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Sounds to me that if they are loading you up with unreasonable volumes of work and are expecting zero errors, you may be the one with a case to file. I agree with the comment about speaking to an employment attorney and also not a bad idea to get HR on your side.
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Old 09-15-2011, 03:41 PM   #12
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That one-month "nosedive" sounds suspicious, but unfortunately it sounds like "they" are doing everything else according to the book. I wonder if there isn't a self-fulfilling prophecy going on - the more you strive to meet a bar that suddenly got higher, the more stress you feel, leading to errors, and so on. Please remember to take care of yourself - breaks, exercise, eating right, etc. Good luck with HR. Maybe they are being driven hard, too, and will be sympathetic.

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I received a very good performance evaluation in March with nothing said about errors, then received a verbal warning in April. Now, it's been put in writing and I'm on 6-mo. probation.
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Old 09-15-2011, 03:53 PM   #13
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Thanks! I was given the name of a recommended Georgia employment attorney today, and I will be calling her for a consult.
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Old 09-15-2011, 05:39 PM   #14
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Sad situation. I take it you don't have a very good relationship with your immediate supervisor-manager-leader. I've had a few long term employees whose performance fell off to unsatisfactory levels in their later years, where they had been decent performers before. After some early disciplinary steps, if I thought they were on an irreversible path to termination, out of respect I would sit them down and give them the option to exit gracefully instead of ending their long careers with a termination. A good trusting relationship is a necessity, and it's no easy or short discussion. It's a very serious heart-to-heart between two human beings, I never approached it as "the boss." After walking through the two outcomes, some have indeed taken me up in the offer. They left with dignity, and still visit or attend some company functions. Others have taken their chances, and ultimately met an unfortunate career end in time, always relatively contentious of course. Given that you have benefit considerations, it sure would be nice if you could come to an agreement with your supervisor.

However, I initiated all the situations as their manager, none of them came to me looking for an out - though I would have welcomed same. Only you know if this approach is an option in your situation. I would hope after 26 years of good reviews, they wouldn't be so spiteful to deliberately deny benefits you would otherwise be granted.

Adding attorneys to the mix is unlikely to lead to a good ending, especially if you haven't attempted to resolve the issue without. Management has to protect themselves once it's a legal matter, and their options are greatly reduced. Good luck...
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Old 09-15-2011, 05:40 PM   #15
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You might want to talk to someone who is familiar with employment law
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Old 09-15-2011, 09:03 PM   #16
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I am glad to hear that you will be contacting an attorney. So many people don't understand what rights they have.
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Old 09-15-2011, 11:12 PM   #17
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After some early disciplinary steps, if I thought they were on an irreversible path to termination, out of respect I would sit them down and give them the option to exit gracefully instead of ending their long careers with a termination.
...
I would hope after 26 years of good reviews, they wouldn't be so spiteful to deliberately deny benefits you would otherwise be granted.
I agree with Midpack here. It's highly unlikely they would fire you without giving you the option to retire if you are eligible. Doing so would be setting themselves up for a lawsuit. Especially if you have a history of good performance reviews. Even if they do, you could always counter offer taking ER instead, with an unstated but implied legal threat. It would be no skin off their teeth to let you go out gracefully.

Quote:
Adding attorneys to the mix is unlikely to lead to a good ending, especially if you haven't attempted to resolve the issue without. Management has to protect themselves once it's a legal matter, and their options are greatly reduced. Good luck...
This one I have to disagree with. Just because you talk to a lawyer doesn't mean you have to sue or anything. Knowledge is power, and perhaps the attorney can give you suggestions on ways to extend your employment through full retirement, or at least collect information that would stand you in good stead in case of a lawsuit. No need to mention the attorney to management until the fecal matter impacts the rotating airfoils.
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Old 09-16-2011, 03:38 AM   #18
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If your state is anything like WA, where I'm from, I would imagine growing budget deficits and dwindling revenues are leading to pressures to cut spending wherever possible, which in state government usually means cutting jobs. In WA they are cutting out a whole efficiency auditing section that has saved millions of dollars every year -- penny wise and pound foolish. Sounds to me like you might be bearing the brunt of something like this. Someone has to go in your department, regardless of the workload, and if you are the last in you may well be on the block as the first out.

I hope that isn't it, but if it is you are probably better off retiring early.

Good luck....

lhamo
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Old 09-16-2011, 05:07 AM   #19
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Do not underestimate the negative influence on your mind and attitude that comes from waiting "it" to happen.
Even if "it" ends with amicable ER it could spoil your attitude towards ER and you might find yourself not enjoying it as much as you could.
Sometimes it makes sense to take a proactive approach and walk out early but by your decision.
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Old 09-16-2011, 08:17 AM   #20
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See what your attorney says and if you are a union member you should investigate what protections the union can offer. That said, at soem point this has to be about risk management. The healthcare subsidy is likely worth a princely sum and if you lose that by getting fired you have probably just given up $75+k tax free in value. If you don't believe you have adequate protection to avoid being fired before you make it to 60, start coming up with a plan B and retire from this job. Don't leave the healthcare subsidy on the table if you can protect it.
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