A New Tactic to Deny Severance? Unpaid Worker Furloughs

The Associated Press had an article a few days ago about how Companies, including Hospitals are requiring month long furloughs for workers. Yes these are unpaid. One worker interviewed astutely noted:

Trinh Nguyen, 23, was called into a conference room with four other workers in late December at the 50-person Baltimore architecture and design firm where he works. The group was told that they were on a 30-day furlough, starting Dec. 10. "They tried to lighten (it) up as not a termination," said Nguyen, who asked that the company not be named.

As he sees it, most of his co-workers will spend the time hunting for new work. Those who succeed won't qualify for severance payments they would have gotten had they been laid off. That would make the furloughs a way for the company to save money both on paychecks and severance — if workers can find other jobs

Get it? They put people on month long unpaid furloughs, so that worker is going a month without a paycheck and saying these are temporary.

If that worker gets a new job, then the employer doesn't have to pay any severance or unemployment benefits.

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My guess

And this is just a guess, laws may vary where you live, but keeping a worker on the books & offering less than 10 hours a week work in Oregon is a layoff- regardless of what they call it.

Most unemployment arbiters would probably agree- and I'd urge any worker in this position to go ahead and file. The worst you can possibly get is nothing....

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It's worth filing

just to find out. Costs the worker nothing to file, but in Oregon any drop below 10 hours a week is indeed a layoff, regardless of what management calls it. The only exception to this I know of are worker-initiated sabbaticals and FMLA.

If your management initiates it, file for unemployment. The worst they can do is say no, in which case it goes to arbitration.

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2nd response

After looking into it, I not only find that for Oregon I'm right, but under the NATIONAL unemployment law, filing in the case of furloughs or unpaid vacations can *reduce* your requirement to look for work. Instead of actually looking for another job, you could be required (depending on your state) to only call in to the shop or union once a week (as opposed to having proof of handing somebody a resume 3 times a week).

In the case of a furlough or unpaid leave that is manager initiated, it's THEIR responsibility to find you another job, not YOURS.

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that's not the question

The question is when an employer demands forced unpaid furloughs do they have to pay unemployment benefits or severance? That's what the article says they do not.

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The article says that, yes

But in my experience, and I've had quite a bit in the unemployment realm unfortunately, *any* employer-initiated unpaid period counts for unemployment benefits.

It might *NOT* count for severance, that's depending on the individual or union contract (most of my previous jobs did not pay severance unless under threat of discrimination lawsuit, even with a union backing me).

But unemployment benefits? They've got to explain to the state at that point why the person isn't working. And that puts the ballgame into an entirely different realm.

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