Being laid off, while being offered a new job at the same place. Severance available?
May 20, 2008 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Been wanting to quit my job. A unique situation has popped up which might allow me to do so which might give me severance/unemployment. Am I correct?

I work for a group that is actually made up of two distinct organizations, each with different tax numbers and whatnot. My department is being moved from one organization to the other which, as a result, is being handled thusly for employees.

1) Each employee will be terminated on such and such a date from the first organization. At the same time...
2) Each employee has been given an offer letter for a new job that must be signed and accepted by each employee by before the such and such date above, else they have effectively lost their job due to the previous termination.

It seems to me that we are being laid off, with the assumption that we will immediately take the new, unsolicited, offer. Due to the situation outlined above, am I entitled to severance or unemployment, which I could use to find a new job? Or, by them offering us a new job, does that negate that possibilty?

This is honestly one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make (I have 10 years of experience working at this job, combined between consultant and employee, but have lost almost everything I enjoyed about working here) but this might make the decision more palatable.
posted by BecauseIHadFiveDollars to Work & Money (12 answers total)
It really depends on where you live. If you're Canadian, then, no, you wouldn't be eligible for EI benefits.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 11:52 AM on May 20, 2008

Best answer: I am not an employment lawyer, but I've been unemployed. In my state (Oregon), they will contact your previous employer to clarify the terms of your departure. Assuming that yours operates the same way, at that point the unemployment folks would learn that you turned down a job offer, and I think that might negate your eligibility for the dole, since turning down a job is pretty much the kiss of death.

It sounds like you'd really like to quit, though. Speaking as someone who's done that before, without another gig lined up, I'd encourage you to stick with the company through this departmental move, but start applying elsewhere. Unless you can afford to just not work for the forseeable future, in which case your vacation begins in two weeks. Woo.
posted by mumkin at 11:54 AM on May 20, 2008

Response by poster: I guess in the end what I'm really wondering about is severance.

And yes, I'd really like to quit, and have been attempting to "stick it out" for the last six-to-twelve months out of some misguided loyalty, which has gotten steadily worse as more and more people quit, and the internal culture has continued to deteriorate. But due to the massive amount of work to do, and my own neuroses about looking for a job while I am in a job (I find it very difficult to balance the two, even at home), I haven't been able to focus on the job search as much as I would like.

I do have enough in savings to last at least a year, if not more, at the same comfort level I am at now (I have at least an entire year's net salary in liquid state... and that was gonna be another AskMe question, but I guess not anymore). I'm just trying to get over the guilt.
posted by BecauseIHadFiveDollars at 12:01 PM on May 20, 2008

i know it varies from state to state, but for the most part you can only get Severance if you have an employment contract from your employer stating that severance will be provided if you are terminated ( there are also usually other condidtions that have to be met)

you might be able to get umemployment, but probably not if you are turning down a position that is equal to what you had, at equal pay.

i don't think this is the "golden parachute" you were hoping it was....
posted by Mr_Chips at 12:08 PM on May 20, 2008

Response by poster: Naah, not looking for a Golden Parachute. Just a way out, and was wondering if this was the way to do it. Thanks!
posted by BecauseIHadFiveDollars at 12:10 PM on May 20, 2008

You've always had a "way out", you're looking for someone to pay you to leave, basically.

Check your contract/employee handbook/etc to see if the termination you're going to get is eligible for severance. Being the cynic that I am, even if it were technically available, I'd count on the company making it very difficult to work out, as in... we're not giving you a penny until you hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit, at which point we'll cave and settle for half of the severance you should've gotten.
posted by toomuchpete at 12:18 PM on May 20, 2008

Unemployment eligibility requires that you be involuntarily unemployed and actively seeking equivalent work. Your plan would seem to fail both legs of that analysis, and badly enough that you might even be singled out for rough handling for submitting a bad-faith application.

The only way through I could imagine it would work (and IANYL, of course) is if the new offer letter forces you to waive important rights you now have or in other ways makes the new job materially worse than the current job, such that you can actually say not only were you really terminated for refusing to sign but that you were within your rights to refuse the new job as not equivalent work. You'd have to make candid disclosure of all of these circumstances in your application for benefits of course, and run the risk the examiner wouldn't go along.
posted by MattD at 12:23 PM on May 20, 2008

Best answer: Tried to get unemployment under similar circumstances in California. It did not work.
posted by goalyeehah at 12:32 PM on May 20, 2008

Response by poster: Ok, thanks everyone! It was a longshot and more about technicalities, but thought it would better to ask here than my own HR and get a target on my head.
posted by BecauseIHadFiveDollars at 12:36 PM on May 20, 2008

Best answer: I'm just trying to get over the guilt.

If there's anything you should feel guilty about, it's that you've already wasted months of your life doing a job you dislike at a company you've long known you want to leave. You're lucky to have so much money saved up, so just quit already! Once you've done it you'll wonder what on earth you were thinking that made you wait so long.
posted by lia at 12:51 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Just a counter-point. I was laid off from a job I had been at for 5 years in the midst of an ill-planned restructuring. Three weeks later they wanted to re-hire me in a new position (but doing much of what I had done before) with higher pay. I turned it down, and continued to draw unemployment for another 5 months until I found a better job. This was in NYC. I think the main reason I was able to draw was that my company didn't contest it.
posted by kimdog at 12:57 PM on May 20, 2008

In some states under certain conditions, your employer is required to give you severance (sometimes one week for every year you've worked there or a similar formula). But the more common rule is that you are only entitled to severance if you have an employment agreement that grants you severance (or a separate severance agreement, etc.). Usually, only executives have such agreements, although some companies will guarantee the rank and file some modicum of severance.
posted by Falconetti at 3:14 PM on May 20, 2008

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