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  • Massachusetts question Massachusetts

    I have a question regarding Massachusetts.

    We are supposed to be furloughed next week-- I am a salaried exempt employee.

    I am not terribly enamored with my job-- so I am hoping to capitalize on this. I have other opportunities, but would owe a reasonable sizing bonus back if I left. I read my contract- and if I leave voluntarily, I need to repay the bonus.

    If I am furloughed, am I technically laid off? Can I start to collect- and not return? My understanding is a furlough includes a reasonable promise to provide work later-- but that is not enforceable. I would think that I am free to take other work-- and not be required to repay the bonus as I did not leave voluntarily.

  • #2
    If I am furloughed, am I technically laid off? This is a semantics issue and the definition of furlough is up to your empoyer. It's not a legal issue. If you're involuntarily out of work, you can and should apply for unemployment benefits.

    My understanding is a furlough includes a reasonable promise to provide work later-- but that is not enforceable. Furlough is whatever your employer wants it to be. It could mean any number of things but at the very least, it means you won't be working for a period of time.

    I would think that I am free to take other work-- and not be required to repay the bonus as I did not leave voluntarily. . Yes, you are free to take other work. Whether your employer can/will require you to repay the bonus is not something anyone responding here can answer. First and foremost, we haven't read the terms of the bonus you were provided.

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    • #3
      Agreed with the other answers.
      - Just to be sure, is this a governmental employer? The word "furlough" means something if it is a governmental employers. Otherwise, it is just a word that means whatever the employer want it to mean.
      - File for UI as soon as the layoff occurs.
      - Conditional wage payments such as you describe are not well addressed (or addressed at all) in Labor Law. So there are no one-size-fits-all rules related to this. This is more of a Contract Law question, and your only real answer is to take your contract to a local contract law attorney who will have to read the entire document, and compare that with what MA specific law on conditional wage payments that exist. Meaning that the exact same contract would not be viewed the same in different states. Meaning quite possible different judges in the same state might not agree on what the "law" is. Conditional wage payments is something employers have started doing a lot in recent years, but there was no statutory law on this. More like the employer saying "since no one can find a law that this violates, it must be legal". Maybe. Maybe not. It is more like playing Wheel of Fortune where the judge-du-jour can support any decisions he/she makes.
      -Lastly, the employer does not necessarily know any more about this then you do. They could have prepared the "contract" themselves without legal assistance. It could be a bluff. Or not. I worked for an employer in the 1980s who would routinely take employees to court no matter how bad our case was. The president considered it to be a matter of "principal". The "principal" apparently being "don't mess the big dog".
      "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
      Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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      • #4
        Also

        Also of note; my employer is out of state. Their legal team isn't in Massachusetts. It is not a federal employer. Private company (CA).

        Without posting it here-- the contract basically says I will repay the bonus if I leave voluntarily within one year.

        It doesn't describe who the voluntary party is though; I imagine if they "voluntarily" fire me they could argue I left voluntarily on their part.

        It also doesn't describe how quickly I will repay these funds. I imagine one could argue I have a near infinite amount of time to repay it.

        It sounds like it is sort of in a wishy washy area.

        Thanks everyone. Looking forward to the furlough.

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        • #5
          My understanding is a furlough includes a reasonable promise to provide work later-- but that is not enforceable. Furlough is whatever your employer wants it to be. It could mean any number of things but at the very least, it means you won't be working for a period of time.

          If I am collecting-- and the furlough ends; am I required to stop taking unemployment and take the job they are "reoffering"; or am I free to look for other work.

          Comment


          • #6
            Are you being furloughed indefiniately? Keep in mind there is a waiting period before UC kicks in. If you take another job, your UC ceases. Same goes for if you turn down employment.

            The ordinary meaning of voluntary resignation is one which you initiate. If you take another job and fail to return to this one, you are voluntarily severing your employment. Expect to have to repay the bonus. If they flat out terminate you, then you should not.

            The law doesn't dictate payment plans but if it goes to court, and it gets garnished from your wages, I promise you will not be happy with the terms.
            I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

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            • #7
              If I am collecting-- and the furlough ends; am I required to stop taking unemployment and take the job they are "reoffering"; or am I free to look for other work.

              If your employer offers you work, yes, in the majority of instances you must accept it. If you refuse, then you will no longer be eligible for unemployment benefits.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by ElleMD View Post
                Are you being furloughed indefiniately? Keep in mind there is a waiting period before UC kicks in. If you take another job, your UC ceases. Same goes for if you turn down employment.

                The ordinary meaning of voluntary resignation is one which you initiate. If you take another job and fail to return to this one, you are voluntarily severing your employment. Expect to have to repay the bonus. If they flat out terminate you, then you should not.

                The law doesn't dictate payment plans but if it goes to court, and it gets garnished from your wages, I promise you will not be happy with the terms.
                Yes- we are being furloughed indefinitely; it revolves around the shutdown. It is indeterminate. Could be one day, could be several months. We will probably pick up a week or so after the shutdown ends as the money needs to trickle down.

                I am somewhat confused; if I am furloughed-- I am required to look for work when collecting. I would think at this point; they elected to end the contract. If I take a job which is seems I am required to do, then I should not be in conflict with the agreement.

                I actually have several opportunities so I believe I can find employment within a day or so.

                This is pretty complicated; my attorney is on vacation but we are going to have my wife's attorney look it over tomorrow.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The goal of UC is provide some income when you are not working through no fault of your own, while you seek other employment. It is not a stop gap measure between gigs and it has no bearing on your employer's policies. You aren't required to file for UC. If you choose to, you must abide by the terms the state sets forth for eligibility. Part of that eligibility is that you are actively looking for work. If you fail to look for work, you are no longer eligible. If you are offered work and turn it down you are no longer eligible.

                  What happens if you fail to return to work for your current employer is a totally separate matter. If you accept another job to get off UC that is still a voluntary departure as you are still employed by your current company. Whether they opt to hold you responsible for the bonus is on them. It doesn't suddenly because an involuntry termination because you accepted another job as you were no longer eligible for UC.
                  I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

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