Unemployment after demotion?
March 20, 2010 11:51 AM   Subscribe

I've been demoted. Returning to work Monday after two months medical leave of absence under FMLA. I just learned I've been demoted in responsibility though not in pay after two years on the job. I'll consult a lawyer right away. My question is about unemployment insurance. In Oregon, if I voluntarily leave the job, will I have a chance for unemployment under these circumstances? I'll visit the State employment office right away, too. But, if possible, I'd like some background before I do.
posted by partner to Work & Money (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ok, you're getting the same pay but less responsibility? I'm no lawyer, and I'm certainly not in Oregon, but are you sure this isn't a poorly executed job of making sure you're not going to be overwhelmed by work after being gone for so long?

Check on that first before doing anything rash.
posted by theichibun at 12:09 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe I don't completely understand your circumstances, but I don't understand why you can't just continue working at your same paying job while searching for a new one?
posted by kylej at 12:10 PM on March 20, 2010

I agree with theichibun... might they not just be trying to catch you up/not dump too much on you at once? After 2 months away you're going to be a little behind. Have you asked for the extra responsibilities back, immediately or in the near future?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:12 PM on March 20, 2010

Its complicated. The office is a mess, management wise. My leave is for workplace related stress. On a lawyers advice, I sent my agency a tort claim notice of hostile work environment. No legal action has been taken. I think this demotion is retaliation for that. It is a good thought that they want to give me a chance to catch up, but these people aren't like that.
posted by partner at 12:24 PM on March 20, 2010

Would you have stayed at this job if the demotion hadn't happened? If so, I don't see why less responsibility and same pay is an issue, regardless of the intention of the employer. Most people are experiencing the exact reverse -- less pay/more responsibility.

I would have to agree with kylej that you should keep working at this job while looking for another one. Either you will get more responsibility back as suggested by the others who posted or you'll get another job. In either case you'll get what you want.

Unless what you really want is to collect unemployment and not have to work. I think a long stint of unemployment looks much worse on a resume than a slight reduction in responsibility while staying at a job.
posted by thorny at 12:27 PM on March 20, 2010

I was on short-term medical leave for 6 months. If I returned it would have been light work until they were sure I was ready to return to my full position. However, I knew my job basically no longer existed due to downsizing of the team due to outsourcing. So, I resigned instead. However, HR were kind enough to officially make it 'termination without cause' so that I would be able to collect unemployment. Then it ran-out while I still hadn't found a new job due to the uncertain economy and time of year, and because I wasn't really trying that hard since I was collecting unemployment. So, if you do decide to leave, try to talk HR into making it seem you were laid-off. But as said above, best to find a new job if you can.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 12:33 PM on March 20, 2010

Wait, your leave is for workplace related stress? Doesn't a reduction in responsibility seem like a reasonable way for an employer to address that?
posted by Sfving at 12:34 PM on March 20, 2010 [16 favorites]

I appreciate the advice to stay on and look for work. The place is so dysfunctional, though, that two excellent people (out of a dept. of 10) have quit cold since I went on leave. It is not that I want unemployment insurance because I don't want to work. But, I can use it as a cushion while I restart my freelance work (which I had done for 20 years previous).
posted by partner at 12:44 PM on March 20, 2010

It is reasonable, , but I made it clear when I left that the stress comes not from the job itself, but from management; hence the hostile work environment notice. I asked for a transfer out of the department. Instead they demoted me to a job that will be far less satisfying to me.
posted by partner at 12:51 PM on March 20, 2010

If you do get unemployment with the intention of going freelance, use some of the time to setup a numbered, then incorporated company with a website and all. It's was about 800 bucks to do all that where I am. Then if unemployment asks what you've been doing, it shows that you're not idle while you look for clients.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 12:52 PM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

From my 10 minutes reading the Oregon UI website, no real experience

I wouldn't count on it being easy. You'll need to argue you left for "good cause" due to the employer, which if true would probably be enough for a lawyer to take your case.

From the Oregon UI website:
Unemployment insurance is based on the premise that a claimant has become unemployed due to no fault of the claimant.
If you became unemployed for any reason other than a lack of work, then an adjudicator will conduct an investigation... Based on the type of separation, the investigation will pursue answers to the following questions: ... Quitting a job: Did you leave work with good cause?

From the relevant law (657.176 Grounds and procedure for disqualification; exceptions; rules):
(2) An individual shall be disqualified from the receipt of benefit ... if the authorized representative designated by the director finds that the individual:... (c) Voluntarily left work without good cause;
posted by FuManchu at 1:16 PM on March 20, 2010

What you are talking about is a constructive dismissal. The employer changed the terms of employment in such a way that it is no longer what you signed up for. In basic, laymans terms.

So same hours and pay isn't it. Different hours? Different pay? Maybe.

But the unemployment offices in the various states have different standards and it's a tricky thing.

I don't know if a hostile work environment counts- that's language from a different set of statutes in the discrimination family. For that to work, I think the hostile work environment would have to be some how targeted at you based on your membership in some protected class.
posted by gjc at 1:34 PM on March 20, 2010

FMLA requires that you be returned to an equivalent position, but not the same position. Here is the definition of equivalent per the Department of Labor.

It says: "An equivalent position is one that is virtually identical to the employee's former position in terms of pay, benefits and working conditions, including privileges, perquisites and status. It must involve the same or substantially similar duties and responsibilities, which must entail substantially equivalent skill, effort, responsibility, and authority."

There are many more details in the link above that expand on the specifics of this definition.

If you can argue that these conditions are not being met, then it may be worth pursuing further action.
posted by cecic at 1:52 PM on March 20, 2010

I am probably going to sound a little harsh here, but I just want to play devil's advocate so you aren't blindsided by what sounds like a potentially volatile situation.

I think it's doubtful that you will be able to get unemployment insurance, unless you can do something to force them to fire you. Since you filed that claim though, they are going to be more hesitant to fire you and are likely just hoping that you will quit as soon as possible. I am sure you know this, but it bears thinking about from another perspective: employment in America is always at will--and this goes both ways. What this means in very general terms is that barring outright discrimination your boss does not have a duty to continue employing you (just as you can announce that you will not be returning to work on Monday).

However this ultimately shakes out, it's clear that you will not be employed there for much longer given all you've mentioned above. So in a lot of ways it's your decision how you'd like this to play out. And it's up to you to decide how much stress you're willing to absorb in exchange for unemployment insurance.

I would suggest you think about the bigger picture. And by bigger picture I mean 6 months from know when you're on your own doing consulting work. You may be happy if you're able to collect unemployment or some type of severance to have that extra money, but please remember that this money pretty much always comes with massive psychological cost. Is there any way you can find a way to let go of your anger at the situation as you're letting go of this employer? Can you financially afford that? Because the psychological toll of waging war with a current employer cannot be overstated. And sometimes the act of simply letting go of something toxic like this will lead you to paths (and sources of revenue) that you never could have imagined.
posted by ohyouknow at 2:10 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

"And sometimes the act of simply letting go of something toxic like this will lead you to paths (and sources of revenue) that you never could have imagined." Thanks, -- food for serious thought.
posted by partner at 2:27 PM on March 20, 2010

Glad to hear it partner. I wish you the best of luck with this.
posted by ohyouknow at 2:34 PM on March 20, 2010

I'd like to highlight two parts of your responses: you want unemployment insurance as a financial cushion to restart your freelance work. You want unemployment insurance because you are now in a job that you will find far less satisfying than your old one.

You said that "[i]t is not that I want unemployment insurance because I don't want to work." The problem you're going to run into is that you *do* want unemployment insurance because you don't want to work. But it's not that you don't want to work at all, it's just that you don't like your job.

Unemployment insurance is not a government benefit designed for the purpose of giving you a financial cushion for restarting your old business, or relieving you of the necessity of going to an unsatisfying job. Unless the reason you dislike your job is a circumstance that is either illegal or is legally actionable, as it is in some circumstances, then you should save up a financial cushion of your own (separate tips as to how to cut expenses to the bone) and then quit.

Be sure to save a large cushion, as 11% of your county's out of work and that's going to mean drastically less work for any freelancer.
posted by WCityMike at 2:52 PM on March 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

To me, as a stranger, it's sounding like you're looking for an excuse to quit. I don't know the situation at your office at all, but the way you're complaining about (could be justified, I don't know) and the way you came back defensively in rebuttal makes it clear that you don't like your job and you have set up a narrative where it's all management's fault.

Even if they hadn't demoted you, you'd still be wanting to leave and start your freelance work, right? But since you think you've been demoted, you're trying to get unemployment in order to do it "with a cushion."

It's your lawyer's job to try to spin your case in the best light possible. It's his job to paint your employer as the bad guy and you as the victim. But they'll have lawyers, too, and I don't think that your reasoning will hold up to their spinning.

"My boss sucks and I can't work here anymore so can you please pay me while I look for something I like better" is not how you get unemployment.
posted by thebazilist at 4:27 PM on March 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

I think this demotion is retaliation for that

Get a lawyer, immediately. If you work in a hostile environment, complained about it and then was soon after demoted that is most likely retaliation and illegal.

Good luck
posted by zombieApoc at 6:26 PM on March 20, 2010

Why would you keep working there at all?
posted by outsider at 10:57 AM on March 21, 2010

« Older Is Moroccan Hair Oil Safe To Use?   |   Using Wikipedia content and photos in an iPhone... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.