The recruiter has just told you that you were the top candidate for a role you’ve interviewed for - and the company is going to make you an offer. Enjoy the feeling, because you’ve earned it! Interviewing is competitive and stressful, and even in a “hot” job market there are usually multiple candidates for any job position.
Once you have a written offer in hand, you suddenly have a lot of leverage. Maybe you want to negotiate a different start date, or perhaps you want the company to offer you a sign-on bonus as the “tie-breaker” to get you to sign their offer and not the other company’s offer. Either way, once you receive the offer, you are in a unique position to ask for a few tweaks before you sign. In some cases, it even makes sense to ask for a severance clause in your offer letter when joining a new firm. Let’s look at some of these situations:
Mergers & Acquisitions. If you are joining a company that has recently been acquired or merged, or has announced a pending merger or acquisition, you should definitely ask for a severance clause in your offer letter. For example, if you have been offered a job at a small private company that has been in the news lately for being acquired by a larger public company, you are taking on a lot of risk. If the merger/acquisition has been announced publicly, but has not yet closed (i.e. officially finalized), you run the possibility that the company you join will be fully merged into the larger company within 30-60 days. Subsequently, they may decide to lay people off who are in “redundant” positions. One way to include a severance clause as security against job loss as a result of an acquisition is to ask for a “double trigger” termination clause. Double trigger simply means two events have to happen for you to receive whatever benefit is included in the clause: 1) Your company is involved a change of control/acquisition, and 2) As a result of the change in control you are terminated (usually within some period such as 90-180 days from the date of the acquisition closing). Many “double trigger” clauses provide for full acceleration of unvested stock options, but may also include items like severance pay or some form of pro-rated bonus.
Lay-offs, Outsourcing, & Downsizing. If you’ve been terminated more than once, whether by layoff, downsizing, outsourcing, or other type of sudden no-fault job loss, you have every reason to ask for a severance clause in your offer letter. Similarly, if you are in an industry with lots of churn (such as semiconductor, domestic manufacturing, etc.), a severance clause is a reasonable request. Obviously, you might not want to bring up the issue of termination when you just receive the offer, but in certain situations, you should talk with your hiring manager about including a termination clause including severance. Simply explain your concerns about previous layoffs that have affected you, and make it clear that you are only trying to provide some insurance for yourself and your family, in the event that the company decides to end your employment (not “for cause” or for performance). The company may or may not be willing to include such a clause, but the time to inquire is before you sign.
Executive positions. For executive (loosely defined as any position with Vice President (VP) or above title) offer letters or employment contracts, severance clauses are very common, and you should insist on one. Higher-level jobs pay more and provide better overall earnings opportunities. However, because there are fewer of these jobs, they are very competitive, and thus harder to land. While the amount of severance offered in termination clauses varies considerably based on company size, title/level of the job, and industry, a good rule of thumb for an executive severance clause is a minimum of 3 months, and up to as much as 12 months of severance pay. Some companies pay even more; I know one person who worked at a private company for over 20 years, and when his role was eliminated, he was given a severance package that included full pay with benefits for two years. C-level roles in large public companies (such as CEO or CFO roles) often get multi-million dollar severance packages (otherwise known as golden parachutes).
Company –sponsored relocation. Another time when a severance clause is important is if your company is relocating you from one location to another. Relocation for a stellar job opportunity is a great way to advance your career, but if you move yourself and your family and then 3 months after you have moved, the company you just joined gets acquired - or goes bust - you may find yourself in a new place without a job and no support network. If the company initiates a termination for any reason other than “for cause,” you should be protected with severance and/or an agreement to relocate you back to your original location so that you aren’t left holding the bag. Being in a new place with few contacts, and the potential disruptions of school for your kids, or your spouse’s job, is more than enough reason for you to get a termination clause with relocation benefits.
How much should I ask for? If you decide to ask for a termination severance clause, ask the company what their policy is for “not for cause” severance. They may pay a minimum baseline of 2-4 weeks pay as severance, and then use some formula based on length of service, pay rate, or title that adds additional severance to the baseline. If the company doesn’t have a severance policy or won’t share it with you, ask for a minimum of two months pay (unless you are an executive as outlined above) and see where the negotiation goes from there. They don’t have to honor your request, but like they say, if you don’t try, you have a 100% chance of failure.
Far too many people get offer letters, and then don’t negotiate any beneficial terms in spite of the substantial leverage they have before they sign. Use that leverage to your advantage to get extra benefits, because once you sign the letter, you’ve just joined the queue with all the other employees in the company who are waiting for their next pay increase or promotion.
Let’s face it: most employees who are terminated by their company know in advance they are going to lose their jobs. Whether you’ve been placed on a performance improvement plan (PIP), have recently been part of a merger, or just have “that feeling” that things aren’t working out, there are always warning signs that telegraph the likelihood that you’ll be fired, laid off, or forced out.
If you suspect you may lose your job soon, there are some critical steps that you should take as “insurance” in case the pink slip comes your way. Note that most of these steps require you to still HAVE a job, so don’t waste time if you are feeling the heat at work!
1. Research Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”) health insurance plans. Although you may be able to continue you current company health insurance under COBRA, it will be extremely expensive, as you will be paying the entire premium costs every month. Finding an affordable, high-deductible plan under the ACA is a great alternative to continuing your company coverage under COBRA. Or, if your spouse has a medical insurance plan at his/her company, see if you can join that plan as a family member.
2. If you are a veteran, you may be eligible for health insurance coverage under the Veterans Administration. Check with your local V.A. Hospital to see if you are eligible for this type of coverage (eligibility is normally based on income level, and before you can get treatment you will need to complete an income assessment). This might be a good option if you are a veteran and have already lost your job and cannot afford other types of medical insurance.
3. Apply for a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) loan if you own a home. If you lose your job, having access to cash is extremely important: you might have a medical emergency, a major car or house repair, or simply an extended job search. Getting the loan approved while you are still actively employed is critical, whether you actually use the funds or not. Similar to a home purchase loan, a HELOC lender will verify your income and employment with your current employer. Most HELOC’s are structured where you have an amount available (say $25,000 or $50,000) and when you want to withdraw money you simply write a check or use the credit card provided for the HELOC account. You don’t start repaying the HELOC until you draw funds from it, and after you withdraw funds, you will usually be required to make monthly interest-only payments for a specified time period. Similarly, if your car is paid for, or even if you have a few years remaining on a car loan, you may be able to re-finance your car loan at a cheaper rate, to free up cash that you might need for an extended job search. Again, do this before your employment ends.
4. Consider a getting a credit card (like American Express or Chase Sapphire) that has a very high credit allowance. Generally speaking, credit cards are not the best way to fund major purchase expenses because of the high interest rates they charge on unpaid balances. But if you have a major medical procedure or unexpected home/car repair you need to pay, having a high credit allowance card can come in handy. Similar to buying a house or getting a car loan, getting a credit card will require you to fill out an application that lists your income, so it’s essential to do this before you are terminated and not after the fact.
5. Make some tweaks to your current paycheck. If you know you are going to get fired or laid off, you should focus on getting as much cash in the bank as you can now, to support you in the event you experience an extended job search. For example, if you are contributing to a company 401(k) account, you could stop your paycheck deductions and re-direct that money to a savings account, or if your company offers an Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP), you can withdraw from the plan and request a refund of any money already deducted from your paycheck.
6. Start networking NOW. The worst time to start networking is when you need a job, because people will immediately sense that you need help, and may be turned off if they feel they can’t help you. While most people want to help, they don’t always know what to do. People want the EASY solution, so give them that: start meeting with people in your network while you still have a job, and simply tell them that you are interested in a job change, tell them what kind of a job you want, and ask them to recommend 1-2 people in their network that might be willing to talk with you. This approach takes the pressure off people to “solve your problem,” but also gives them a way to feel like they are helping. Just be sure you actually follow-through and contact the people you are referred to. As a side note, if you can locate friends or colleagues in your network that have recently lost their job, or spent some time looking for a new job, connect with them. People who have recently gone through the difficult process of looking for a new job generally “get it” and understand how challenging job hunting can be. Thus, they are much more prone to help you, whether through networking or sending you job leads that might not be a fit for them, but might be a great fit for you.
7. Use the money you have in your Flexible Spending Account (FSA). If you have an FSA health account with your current employer, start using the funds before you lose your job. Some FSA plans will only reimburse expenses that were incurred BEFORE your last day of employment. Check with your benefits department about this program if you are in doubt.
8. Get that knee replacement now! If you are facing some kind of major surgery, whether knee replacement, hip replacement, back surgery, or even major dental work, try to get it done while you are still working, and have your current insurance providers and doctor network in place (which you may lose if you change insurance plans after being terminated). Also, if you get major surgery while you are still working, you may be able to take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). While many leaves of absence are unpaid, you may be able to claim partial disability payments during your FMLA from state insurance programs. Some employers “top up” payments to employees so that they continue getting paid while on leaves of absence. If you qualify, a Family Medical Leave will provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave (there are some circumstances where you can be terminated while on a job-protected leave, but they tend to be rare). Leaves of absence can be complex, so be sure to research your company employee handbook and benefits plan documents to understand eligibility requirements.
9. Have a plan for your retirement account or 401(k). If you are 55 or older in the year in which you leave your company, you may be able to start taking penalty-free 401(k) distributions (vs. Individual Retirement Account (IRA) distributions subject to a penalty if taken before the age of 59 ½). Also, be sure you know whether you can leave your current 401(k) in the custodian account or will have to roll it over into a rollover IRA. Also, you should research the whether or not you are eligible for a “hardship” distribution from your 401(k) plan. See the IRS website for more information on 401(k)’s, IRA’s, and hardship distributions:
IRA FAQ: https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/retirement-plans-faqs-regarding-iras-distributions-withdrawals
Hardship Distributions: https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/retirement-plans-faqs-regarding-hardship-distributions
Do you have a story or comment about losing your job? If so, we’d love to hear about it.
If you have been unemployed for more than 12 months, or were laid off from a manufacturing or other steady job, where you live might have more to do with getting another job than any other single factor.
Yes, the U.S. unemployment rate is now at its lowest point in 10 years, at 4.5%. But that’s cold comfort if you are one of the millions of Americans that is unemployed, and trying to get back in. Much like real estate prices, national statistics tend to be useless; the only unemployment rate you need to worry about is the one where you live - and these unemployment rates are not distributed equally around the U.S. This asymmetry works against you if you live in a rustbelt town, or any place where globalization or automation has eliminated jobs and created an oversupply of workers. A surplus of workers in a town with high unemployment creates a particularly adverse situation: not only are there fewer jobs overall, the ones that are available pay lower wages due to the oversupply of labor. This situation is reversed in locations with low unemployment; there are more jobs, and the jobs tend to pay more because there are fewer skilled workers to fill each role.
San Mateo County, just South of San Francisco, currently has an unemployment rate of 2.9%, while San Francisco city is similarly low at 3%, some of the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S. This area has a heavily diversified economy, although Silicon Valley and the technology jobs created there are a major factor driving low unemployment. But unemployment in other areas of California is much higher; in one city (El Centro, CA), over 20%! The point here is that even in the same state, unemployment rates, and more importantly, availability of potential jobs, can vary drastically from one city or region to the next. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes unemployment rates by city/metro area on their website, which can be accessed at: https://www.bls.gov/bls/unemployment.htm
Conventional resume formats almost always list your name, physical address, telephone, and email at the very top of the first page. However, with a more mobile workforce, and an expanding digital footprint for all of us, this information is being replaced by information that is less geo-centric. I’m in the camp that believes you shouldn’t put your location/address on your resume; just list your name, phone #, email, and if you have them, a LinkedIn profile link and website URL. You have to make it past the first screen, and trust me, as someone who has reviewed thousands of resumes, recruiters and recruiting coordinators look for easy and quick ways to screen candidates out of the consideration pool. This is particularly true if it is a role that gathers multiple applications (some companies routinely receive 200-400 resumes per open position). Because your address and other contact information is at the very top of your resume, it’s one of the first things screeners look at and use as a screening criterion. If you get an interview, you can worry about how to explain your physical location then, but don’t give any company a reason toss your resume in the trash pile at first glance.
If no location is listed on your resume, a potential employer might ask you in a screening interview where you live, and indicate whether or not they would offer relocation for the job. Many senior executive positions offer relocation from one area to another, and even entry-level roles can sometimes be eligible for company paid relocation assistance if the role requires a skill that is in very high demand. Some companies don’t care about physical location; many companies allow telecommuting, and employees in field sales roles are often based out of home offices. More companies are adopting “lump-sum” relocation policies; this is where the company gives you a specific cash amount (say $5,000) that you can spend any way you want to relocate to the job location. Note that this is usually taxable income, however, unless the company specifically pays for each line item associated with your relocation (i.e. moving, storage, flights, hotel stays, etc.) you may be able to deduct relocation expenses on your itemized tax return. Even if the company does not offer relocation assistance of any type, you may still want to consider relocating at your own expense. The relatively small price of relocation in exchange for the very large benefit of being employed is usually worth the trade.
Another fairly common situation for job seekers who land jobs in cities or states other than where they live is to have an arrangement for the first 3-6 months where the employee travels back and forth several times per month from their current location to the job location. Usually these types of job offers come with the understanding that at some specific point in the future, you agree to relocate to the job location. This is common with families who may have kids in school, or in cases where you own a home and it may take you several months to sell or rent out your home. This can be an expensive arrangement for the company, so if it is a deal breaker for the company, and you really, really need the job, you could offer to pay all travel and lodging expenses to make this arrangement work.
Pulling up stakes and relocating is not a trivial thing to do, but if you weigh it against the likelihood of being unemployed for a very long time period, you should seriously consider it. After all, it may be your only shot to get back in the job market.
Do you have a relocation story to share on this blog? If so please comment.
If you are being terminated, laid-off, downsized, or fired for performance, there is a pretty good chance your employer will offer you severance. They want to. Why?
Let us explain: when terminating employees involuntarily, companies always assume some level of risk that they will be sued for wrongful termination or other potential violations of labor laws. However, if they offer you a severance agreement, it will likely contain a carefully worded set of clauses that, when signed, release the company from all claims or damages against them, now and in the future. In other words, in exchange for acknowledging that you will never sue them, for any reason, or at any time in the future, you are getting compensation (severance and or other benefits) in return. A sample “release from claims” clause might look like this in a severance agreement:
In consideration for the obligations of the Company outlined in this agreement, Employee fully and forever releases the company from any claim, liability, obligation, or cause of action relating to any matters of any kind, whether presently known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, that Employee may possess arising from any omissions, acts or facts that have occurred up until and including the date Employee has signed this Agreement including, without limitation: (subsequent sections of this clause list specific types of claims that employee might conceivably make against the Company at some point in the future).
While this tangle of words may seem innocuous, it is part of a legally binding document, and once you sign it, you significantly limit your ability to EVER pursue a legal claim against your company. You can still sue them in the future, but if you sign a severance agreement and release from all claims, it is unlikely that you case will go very far, unless you were coerced or threatened with some form of serious retaliation. Think of a release-from-claims agreement as the “period” that your employer puts at the end of the sentence about your time at the company. It’s over, done, and now on to the next paragraph.
Obviously, not everyone who is terminated will be offered severance. If you are terminated “for cause,” including malfeasance, gross negligence, performance, or some other serious offense, you are not likely to receive anything more from the company but a swift kick in the behind on your way out the door. In most cases like this, the company will have ironclad evidence of the offense or infraction, and thus not feel compelled to protect themselves with the cheap insurance provided by a release-from-claims and severance agreement. Also, you might find that smaller companies without fully developed severance practices do not provide severance agreements with this type of language, and may simply offer you a payout for your notice period (or no payout at all) if you are terminated.
As always, if you are not sure what your rights are, or what the language in your severance agreement really means, you should seek the assistance of an employment lawyer who represents individual employees in termination and other employment matters.
You may have read recently that Americans are quitting their job in record numbers. A recent Yahoo Finance article (Myles Udland, “Americans are quitting jobs at the fastest pace in 16 years,” March 16, 2017) mentioned that this means that the economy is improving, because employees who quit have more confidence they can get another job/opportunity pretty quickly. But there is a dark side to this news: most people who quit their jobs simply are simply sick of them, and have reached their BS threshold. Generally speaking, it’s not logical to just quit if you don’t have another job lined up.
There is a right way and a wrong way to quit your job. If you don’t already have a job lined up, you should be aware of factors such as medical insurance that can be problematic if you aren’t working (we discuss these below). Also, no matter how you feel about your boss, your company, or the team you are leaving, never, ever resign without notice; it is immature and unprofessional. From the standpoint of pure self-interest, don’t pee in a fountain you may have to drink from again; a lot of employees return to the same company at some point in the future.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that we strongly advocate for employees to take an active role in negotiating their severance packages when being fired or involuntarily terminated. But what if you just want to resign/quit? Can you still get severance? Yes, it is possible. “How is that possible?” The long answer short is that you have nothing to lose, and there are some scenarios where you can resign and are still able to negotiate severance, or some other sort of transition pay like a cash bonus. Let’s look at a few of these scenarios.
Scenario A: You hate your job. You hate your boss. Your boss hates you. PERFECT! If you are ready to quit, what do you have to lose? And if your boss really does hate you, he/she is already thinking about how to get rid of you. So, you can make it easy for him, and possibly get some money in the bank along the way: schedule a meeting, tell him you’ve been thinking a lot about your job, and you feel it’s just not working out, based on how he has been treating you or other adverse factors you can cite concretely. Depending on how this conversation goes, you could open a line of inquiry to see if you may be eligible for a “mutual separation,” with transition pay. For example, you could say:
“[John/Joan], I’ve been thinking a lot about my role on your team, and about our working relationship. I think we both know it’s been less than ideal, particularly since you [provide a concrete example, like recent performance review, or team friction, disagreements at work, etc.]. I want you to know that I’d be open to discussing a transition plan, and will commit to an orderly transition of my responsibilities, in exchange for severance or transition pay. Can we explore a mutual separation plan? I can get on with my life and job search, and you can get someone on your team that really is in synch with your goals.”
That way you give your boss an out, and you don’t commit to resigning, which can be a one- way street with no turnaround. Your boss will probably talk with HR, and they’ll tell him/her that a mutual separation is a good alternative to a forced resignation or a performance plan. Keep in mind that a severance agreement provides cheap insurance for companies to insure you won’t sue them in the future. Virtually all severance agreements are carefully worded legal documents that ask you to sign a “release from all claims” against the company, now and forever, in exchange for severance pay or other benefits. Again, if you are about to quit, you have NOTHING to lose.
Scenario B: You’ve decided you want to leave. Either you hate your job, or you’ve received another offer, or you just want to do your own thing and start your own business. Are you in a critical role? Would your company/boss/team panic if they knew you were leaving right before a major deliverable is due (like signing a major customer contract or finalizing quarterly filings, etc.)? If the answer is yes, and you time it right, you may put your company in such a difficult position by leaving that they are willing to pay you extra to stay for additional time. That conversation could go something like this:
“[John/Joan] I’ve decided to resign, and would like to give my two week notice. I know the timing isn’t good, but I really need to move on, and will be taking some time off.”
If your boss panics and asks you to extend your notice period- by even a few days- tell him you are open to it, but there is an opportunity cost to you because of a trip you have planned (or some other reason), and if you did stay beyond the two-week notice period, you’d need a retention bonus or additional pay (like 150% of regular pay rate for any time beyond your two-week notice). The more critical your role in the company, and the closer to some major milestone you can time it, the more leverage you have. It’s not unusual for companies to pay employees retention bonuses to stay a few extra weeks (or even months). Be aware that retention bonuses are pretty common, but they generally are tied to specific deliverables, and as such, may be at risk if you don’t complete the deliverable or stay for a pre-determined time period. If you are in a role where your sudden departure would severely impact the company, you should explore getting a retention bonus or a higher pay rate to stay beyond the standard two-week notice period.
Scenario C. You’re done. You aren’t in a critical role, and you don’t have any particular leverage to negotiate a package. You just want OUT. No matter how you are feeling, or what your job experience has been, take a step back and consider a few things carefully before you quit. First, give two weeks of notice (or more, if you have a contract or collective bargaining agreement specifying a notice period). Even though there is no legal requirement to give notice, it’s considered a common market practice, and if you abruptly quit, no matter how good it feels, it’s almost always the wrong thing to do. Quitting with no notice is sure to negatively impact your professional reputation, not to mention leaving your teammates and manager in a tough position. By the way, many companies won’t allow employees to take vacation during their notice period (so that they can have some transition time with your replacement), and will pay out any accrued, unused vacation time you have with your last paycheck. Even if they do, it can be crappy to resign, give two weeks’ notice, and then take vacation for two weeks. Most companies expect their employees who resign to at least make some effort toward effectively documenting and transitioning their work to other members of the team.
Second, consider your timing. Most companies that offer employer-sponsored medical benefits pay the premiums at the first of the month, and thus if you quit on the 1st or 2nd day of the month your benefits will have already been paid for that entire month (confirm this with your HR department if there is any doubt). While you can go on COBRA to continue your medical benefits after you resign, medical insurance premiums can be very expensive, so if you are going to resign and aren’t immediately going to be working, try to time it very early in the month. This applies to medical insurance, not life or accident insurance, which normally end on your last workday. Also, many companies pay bonuses, and you may be required to actually still be employed by the company on the day the bonus is paid, not just the quarter or year in which it is earned. For example, your company may pay an annual bonus earned in the year that ends December 31, but actually make the bonus payment in late January or even February. Check your employee handbook or bonus plan document carefully to see if you actually have to still be employed on the day the bonus is paid to be eligible. The same goes for other benefits that accrue with length of service, such as stock vesting or pension vesting – always check your benefits plan documents and confirm any questions with HR.
Third, don’t burn any bridges. As many as 5-10% of employees return to a previous firm a second time, as so-called “boomerangs.” Leave on good terms, even if you have another job lined up or don’t plan on working again; you really never know. Before you leave, be sure to confirm with your company HR department whether or not you are “eligible for rehire.” This usually refers to a code that is entered into your employee data record when you depart, and some companies have very strict policies on not hiring previous employees, while other companies actively seek to regain lost talent. Many companies will consider having employees who have retired come back as part time employees, to take advantage of the experience and skills they have accumulated over a career.
Finally, if you resign or quit voluntarily (vs. getting fired or being laid off), you won’t be eligible for unemployment benefits. However, if you are able to negotiate a “mutual separation,” you likely will be eligible for unemployment. If you receive severance pay or sign a severance agreement, most unemployment departments will take that as proof that you were laid off or the company eliminated your position.
One of the most pervasive myths about severance pay for involuntary terminations is that it is non-negotiable. Everything, to one degree or another, is negotiable.
The vast majority of companies offer severance for involuntary termination. A 2014 study by Human Resources consulting firm Radford found that 68% of the 240 companies in its survey offered “not for cause” severance benefits, with cash payouts that ranged from 2 weeks to up to 6 months! Unless you are being terminated immediately for some major policy violation or malfeasance, you probably will be eligible for severance.
What HR doesn’t want you to know is that each and every termination is as unique as a fingerprint, and there is almost always room for some negotiation. Severance pay, medical benefits, extended time on the payroll, accelerated vesting of stock awards, reimbursement for professional fees; these are some of the literally dozens of potential benefits that may be negotiable as you get ready to pack up your desk and say goodbye to your colleagues. While you won’t be able to negotiate everything, you should be able to negotiate something.
Reality check: most mid-sized and large companies have “standardized” severance payouts, meaning that they typically have a set formula that limits cash severance pay based on some combination of your salary, your tenure, and your level. For example, an employee who has been at the company for 3 years might be eligible for 5 weeks of severance pay (in this case, 2 week’s notice, and then one week of severance for each year of service). Companies use a wide range of methods to calculate severance, so this is something you should investigate with others who have been laid off or terminated.
Cash severance is only one of many potentially negotiable benefits. One of the easiest benefits to negotiate is additional time on the payroll. Let’s say you are being terminated on the fourth week of the month, and your spouse is having major surgery the first week of the following month. You should explain this to your manager (or HR) and ask for additional time on the payroll so you will have benefits coverage for the surgery. Or, perhaps you offer to work from home while you transition your responsibilities and look for a new job. Most companies will honor requests like this. If they won’t give you time on the payroll, ask them if they will pay the medical premiums (or COBRA payments) for you so that you will have continued medical coverage. And so on; you get the idea.
When negotiating with your company, you should be the coolest, calmest, person in the room. Be reasonable, no one likes conflict, and aggression or anger on your part will derail things quickly. It may seem personal, but it's not.