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If I take another job during a lay-off grace period, is it wrong/illegal/unethical?
July 9, 2011 1:33 PM   Subscribe

I just got notice of my lay-off last week, which will be effective at the end of this month. My company is offering what I think is a great package, but I want to make sure I am taking advantage of it to the fullest.

I know most of you ANAL, and specially not *my* lawyers, but bear with me :-)

The company is being quite generous, and is keeping all laid-off employees on payroll on a grace period until the end of the year, and upon this end-of-year effective termination date it is paying out a severance lump sum based on how long you've been employed.

However, examining the lay-off paperwork, it states that if the employee finds another job during this grace period before the effective termination date, the employee *should* (emphasis mine) notify the company. The severance package will be paid immediately and the employee will be taken off payroll.

My question is: If I find another job and don't notify the company, can I collect two paychecks? Would this be illegal? Why is the company saying *should* instead of *must*? I am assuming my external employment situation is private information, but is there any way the company can find out I took another job?

I don't want to do anything unethical, but I don't have any interest in spending the next six months of my life without working. I want to find another job, but if that puts me off the payroll from my previous company, this severance package is basically a perverse incentive to stay out of the workforce during this grace period, because by taking a job I am basically leaving money on the table.

So, summarizing: if I get another another job during the grace period, am I breaking any laws?
posted by gertzedek to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
IANAL, nor am I your lawyer. I work for a big company that has, in the past, offered this type of compensation to people. IF you take employment, and my company finds out, I've seen them do everything from... nothing except stop your payments to suing for reimbursement for all the monies paid, retroactive back to day of termination plus interest and attorney's fees. I know of at least one instance where they filed criminal charges, but I'm not certain of the details.

You say, "I don't want to do anything unethical" - and yet you're contemplating double-dipping in a situation where you have a signed contract that prohibits that? How is THAT not "unethical"? What kind of person are you?

It's dishonest and it makes me contemplate the idea that I should find some way of notifying the companies of people I hire who've recently been laid off to ensure this doesn't happen... Because to be honest, I wouldn't want to hire you if I knew you were doing that... yeah, I think it's THAT crappy.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 1:49 PM on July 9, 2011


Should doesn't mean must, except when it does. IANYL, and you should get one, but this strikes me as one of those times.

I don't know if failing to notify the company would be "illegal" in the sense of fraud or violating a law in your jurisdiction, but it very well could be a breach of contract. Your old employer could certainly find out, in which case it might seek a remedy against you.

You also say you don't want to do anything unethical. I mean, legal technicalities aside, this is pretty clearly unethical, which you already know, right?
posted by J. Wilson at 1:51 PM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're looking at it from an 'ethical' standpoint, I'm sure you already know the answer. You yourself said in the question that the company is 'being quite generous', and yet you're trying to find a way to take advantage of that. Don't pretend that it's an issue of being 'ethical', the question is really 'how can I make this work to my benefit.'

In that case I think you'd be best off seeking a lawyer, but I'm guessing it'll be one of those cases where you just have to decide whether the risk is worth it to try and get a job without notifying them. Either you succeed and end up a happy clam with your new job and free money, or they find out and they possibly sue you.
posted by sprezzy at 1:57 PM on July 9, 2011


You say, "I don't want to do anything unethical" - and yet you're contemplating double-dipping in a situation where you have a signed contract that prohibits that? How is THAT not "unethical"? What kind of person are you?

Thanks for the answer, but give me a fucking break. I am not saying I *will* double dip. I am just wondering if double dipping is something that is just frowned upon or downright illegal in my situation. You answer was quite informative, and I thank you for that, but I'd appreciate if you got off the high horse.
posted by gertzedek at 2:04 PM on July 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


because by taking a job I am basically leaving money on the table

Yeah, you already know it's not ethical to take money from your old company while getting a new paycheck. Even if you say to yourself that they should compensate you for the inconvenience of having to search for a job, they're already doing that by paying you while you're laid off, and giving you a severance.

I just wanted to address the part of your post that you quoted. You would not be leaving money on the table if you took another job. The money is there because you do not have a job. It is, in effect, a paycheck for not working. Once you're working, you have another paycheck, and so that first paycheck goes away. Now, if the contract says nothing about having to look for work between now and the end of the year, it would be completely ethical for you to go on a long vacation before you start working. That's up to you. But the notion that they're giving you money (the payroll money) is flawed. It's contingent, and ethically you have to honor the contingency.

On preview: You can't really have it both ways. Either be ethical and honor the contract (essentially the definition of being ethical), or consider double dipping. The two are mutually exclusive, and your question is written as if you want to pretend that you don't know that.
posted by OmieWise at 2:11 PM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thank you for your answers, and you're definitely setting me straight. I guess there's two ways of seeing it.

I tend to see this grace period is part of my severance. If I don't get the most of it, I am leaving money on the table. That, to me, is an incentive to spend the next six months doing something enjoyable (stay on the beach, play video games) or constructive (take classes, go to the gym) while collecting a paycheck. The problem I don't want to do any of these things - I want to go back to work. But if I do go back to work, I'll have that nagging feeling I could be at the beach or hanging out. And that's bad.

What I'm hearing is that yes, it sucks, but this is a situation where I can't have my cake and eat it too because this grace period is not part of my severance, but rather like collecting an unemployment check, even though it's coming from my employer and not from the the government. It's a right acquired by being unemployed. Once I'm employed, I lose that right.

If that accurately describes what I am being told, then I have to just suck it up, which is fine. I just want to make sure I am not making a decision that hurts me with no visible upside.
posted by gertzedek at 2:28 PM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think that describes it, but I would really urge you to take at least some time relaxing. This kind of situation does not come up too often in working life, and if you feel confident that you can find another job without too too much trouble, now is a great time to do something that you would not easily have the chance to do otherwise. Go to an immersion language program, learn a new skill, go on an extended trek. I'd pretty much kill for that chance.
posted by OmieWise at 2:40 PM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have no answers for you, but maybe some questions you should ask your HR department. First, during this grace period are you still considered an employee and bound by the company's procedures. For example, can they call you in to work if they want and "fire" you if you do not report and withdraw the severance package and deny unemployment benefits?

Also, will you me required to sign an agreement at the end of the month and what provisions/penalties are in the agreement? Are company benefits also extended to the end of the year (medical, dental, etc)?

Is there another option where they give you a larger severance package now and skip the grace period?
posted by Yorrick at 3:10 PM on July 9, 2011


This is impossible to evaluate without a contract.
posted by yarly at 3:29 PM on July 9, 2011


What I'm hearing is that yes, it sucks, but this is a situation where I can't have my cake and eat it too because this grace period is not part of my severance, but rather like collecting an unemployment check, even though it's coming from my employer and not from the the government. It's a right acquired by being unemployed. Once I'm employed, I lose that right.

That's the way I see it. If you'd feel bad because you *could* be lying on a beach and getting paid to do so, but you don't *want* to lie on a beach doing nothing (even if you're getting paid), that's a problem that only you can solve. It's a in-your-head problem, and it's a separate issue from the conditions of your severance package.
posted by rtha at 5:21 PM on July 9, 2011


You could probably do consulting or freelance work - if it's not prohibited in your current employment contract.

The questions Yorrick posed also seem important.
posted by rainydayfilms at 11:43 AM on July 11, 2011


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