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You're Losing Your Job. What Are Your Rights?

8 things to know before handing over your employee ID

5. Check your credit

According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, six out of 10 private employers check the credit histories of at least some of their job applicants.

Pull your credit report before a prospective employer does, and clean up any errors. Visit annualcreditreport.com to request a free credit report from each of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

One in 10 Americans has been denied jobs due to information in his or her credit report, according to a survey of about 1,000 low- and middle-income households with credit card debt.

You must give your potential employer your consent in writing to request your credit report. And the company has to tell you if you lost out on the job because of your credit history. Importantly, the company must give you the opportunity to explain the black marks or dispute the incorrect information. My guess, however, is that the company is more than likely to say it changed what it was looking for in a candidate for the position, or give a general and indirect explanation for why you were passed over.

A handful of states, including Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Connecticut and California, have cracked down on the practice.

6. Do a background check on yourself

Google your name to find out what potential employers might be able to learn about you from your virtual footprint. Since you are going to be out job hunting, be sure your social media accounts don't cast you in an unflattering light. You might also consider hiring a professional reference-checking company to find out if your former employer is saying something bad about you, Ballman says.

7. Consider skipping the exit interview

Some employers request you do an exit interview, but Ballman says they can't make you do this. She suggests not doing the interview unless the employer offers to pay you for your time. The purpose of an exit interview is for your employer to protect itself in case you later file a lawsuit. If you do have an accusation before you get the ax or quit, be sure to have those allegations laid out in writing and put in your human resources file while you're still employed, in case you opt to take action in the future.

8. Hold your tongue and take the high road

If you're fired and told to leave immediately, don't make a fuss. Leave without tearful goodbyes with coworkers or mean-spirited notes to clients. Do ask to be allowed to pack up your belongings.

You can ask the reason for your firing, but don't expect one. Unless you have a contract saying you can only be fired for cause, under federal law your employer doesn't have to give a reason for firing you. Some state unemployment statutes require the employer to give you general reasons (layoff, discharge and so forth.)

Moreover, under federal law the company doesn't have to give you a letter or written notice of termination. (Some state laws and contracts do require the company to give you a termination notice.) Even more egregious, the company doesn't have to give you a reference or even return the calls of a prospective employer.

It's tempting to blast your supervisor or complain about incompetence on your way out, or say something you will regret later. "Don't blow it by failing to act strategically," Ballman says. "Your coworkers or boss may end up at your new place of employment."

Kerry Hannon, AARP jobs expert, is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her latest book is Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … and Pays the Bills.

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INTERVIEWING SKILLS: The secret to having a terrific job interview is in your ability to successfully sell yourself. In addition to having a strong résumé and excellent networking outreach, you can help yourself by practicing and honing interview skills.

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