Firedemployee The stress meter is definitely pegging among the working crowd. Being an employment lawyer, I normally gets dozens of calls per week from people who have been fired, but now I’m getting a lot of calls from people who expect to get fired and want to do something proactive. Most are not familiar with the concept of at-will employment, so they want to know how they can document their stellar work performance, thinking they can later use that as evidence that there was no just cause for termination.

As stated here many times, you can be fired for any reason or no reason, so long as the termination does not violate public policy (although some states like New York don't even have that limitation). In a down economy when terminations are commonplace, it becomes even more difficult to prove wrongful termination because the company can easily show you were fired for economic reasons.

So, instead of looking to litigation to save the day, here are some tips to keep the job you have (at least until you can go to work for yourself).

Get noticed as a valuable employee

Now is not the time to be a wallflower. With a go-go economy you can fly under the radar, but when the higher-ups are deciding who to terminate, you don’t want anyone saying, "how about that guy with the office next to the copy room – what does he even do?"

Provide an alternative to termination

Say you’re a 15 year employee with one of the higher salaries at the company due to your seniority. When it comes time to cut payroll, you are a big target, and the company will not be thinking of what is best for you, but rather will simply be looking at an organizational chart and the dollars and cents. Before the knock on your office door comes, be ready with an alternative to termination. For example, you might offer to take a lesser-paying position, or switch from a salary to commissions. The company might be thrilled to have someone with your experience go from regional manager down to store manager, but assumed that would be beneath you. Even if it is beneath you, it is far better to be working while you look for a better job than to be living on unemployment.

Diversify and have an exit strategy.

Smart people diversify their investments, yet they usually depend on a single source for their income. Your income should never be limited to one source. While in college, I got a part-time job as a radio announcer. I then got a job at a second radio station, and worked as a disk jockey at a night club on weekends. When one of the radio stations changed formats and fired all the announcers, it was no problem because I had two other jobs.

Yes, those were part-time college jobs, but trust me the same approach can be applied to your situation. If you are thinking right now, "I don’t even have time for my primary job, how can I add others?", then you are thinking too narrowly. Your backup job should be ready and waiting, but it does not need to be active. By day, you are a mild mannered CPA, but you buy a hot dog cart and three times a year you work the local fairs with your kids to instill the entrepreneurial spirit in them. When your accounting firm goes out of business, you hit the county fair circuit selling your hotdogs full time until you find another accounting gig. Even now, working as a full-time, muckety-muck attorney, I maintain "second jobs." If all my clients disappeared tomorrow, I could live off my writing income and Internet businesses. Having money in savings to weather a termination is a good idea, but it should not be your fallback plan. That plan just leaves you with no savings.