With the current state of the job situation in the United States due to the coronavirus, many people are no longer working. There are thousands of Americans who are now hearing terms like fired, furloughed and laid off for the first time. What exactly do these terms mean and what rights come along with each of them? These are all items that will be discussed in this blog.
What is a furlough?
A furlough is unique and separate from actually being laid off. When an employee is placed on a furlough, they are typically asked by the company to reduce their work hours or are asked to take unpaid leave with the understanding that they will be brought back on to work for the company at a later date. During a furlough, employees are usually told when to expect to return to work and the employer will rehire them on a full-time basis at that time. Another key advantage of being furloughed by your employee is that you typically get to keep your benefits when you are on a furlough. A company will usually only use a furlough when they can no longer afford the staff but do plan on bringing them back in the future when the situation improves.
What does being laid off mean? And how is it different than a furlough?
Typically, when a company tells an employee that they are laid-off, they are let go and may be brought back at a future date, but it is not an expectation. The employee may want to seek alternative employment. They no longer receive pay, nor do they retain any of the benefits they had while they were employed with the company. It is important to understand that when someone gets laid off, it typically has nothing to do with the employees ability to perform the job, it has more to do with the state of the company and the inability to continue to afford you. Sometimes if a company is downsizing, they will lay off individuals who they will no longer be able to afford. Employers will usually ask the employees they are laying off to sign a severance package which you should always get reviewed by an attorney before you sign.
What happens if I am fired?
Being fired is pretty straight forward, but it is important to understand if you are in an at-will state or not. Being in an at-will state means that you can be fired for any reason as long as it is not related to any form of protected discrimination. An employee who is fired not in relation to discrimination is usually fired because they have done something against company code. An employee who is fired should not expect to be rehired nor should they expect to continue to get benefits from the company.
What benefits can you get if you have lost your job due to coronavirus?
If you have lost your job you are entitled to unemployment benefits. You can file for unemployment online or over the phone. Unemployment is meant to cover you while you are out of work and is based on how much you earned while employed. Unemployment is meant to try and get you half of that amount. You must be able to prove that you were doing meaningful work before you were laid off. Under the coronavirus CARES Act, employees who are eligible will also receive another $600 a week on top of the regular weekly income that they were receiving until July 31, 2020. The CARES Act also extends the usual cap on unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks.
What should you do if you are being laid off or furloughed and have questions?
It is always recommended to consult with an employment attorney if you are being laid off or furloughed and have questions. Most of the time, the paperwork you receive will be lengthy and before signing off on any of the terms of the severance, you will want an attorney to review the documents and advise you as to your rights and whether or not you should sign. The attorneys at the Lopez Law Group are always willing to assist and are awaiting your call. Please feel free to call our office at 727-933-0015.