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I'm overwhelmed and need some answers California

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  • I'm overwhelmed and need some answers California

    Hello and thank you in advance for any responses or suggestions.

    I was laid off from my job of 15 years today. Myself along with 3 other coworkers were told that we were "laid off" for a week, but they company was displacing other employees and would find placement jobs for us in one week's time. Our union shop steward was present, however the company could not produce any Human Resources Representative to answer any of our questions. When we attempted to ask HR for information regarding benefits such as medical, pay, vacation, they just stated, they did not know and that yes, we are "laid off" and this was to be our last day. We received NO written paperwork, nor did we receive any termination pay, vacation pay, or PTO pay. We were required to turn in badges, keys, credit cards, and other company property. We were not informed of any of our rights including COBRA benefits.

    All we know is we were promised that we would be placed elsewhere in the company in "about a week." I'm concerned for my medical benefits as I have a disability which makes me unable to perform many jobs and for which the supplies are rather expensive. Even if they offer us jobs, I'm afraid of the possibility due to my disability that I may be unable to accept one of those jobs.
    • Is it legal to lay off under temporary circumstances and not pay out any accrued wages?
    • Is a temporary lay off legal or does it still count as a termination?

    This is a very large worldwide brown shipping company who is very powerful, I imagine they can throw my rights out the window if they like with little worry of any repurcussions.

    Thank you again for your assistance.

  • #2
    Easy stuff first.
    - File for UI. There is no reason not to do this now. Do not worry about which word means what. The law does not care about which word the employer uses. I can say that generally a "termination" is a very general word that covers any and all breaking of the employment relationship. Based on what you have said, you should be UI eligible. Even if the employer claims that you are "furloughed" (still employed but not working), it is the lack of pay which triggers the UI claim, not the employer saying magic words.
    - Based on what you have said this could be a temporary lay-off. It could be a non-temporary lay offs, as in you are gone with no prospect of returning. There could be a job offered, probably one with lesser pay and/or benefits. Maybe a lot of things. It is not really possible to give you a good answer on actions your employer has not yet taken.
    - I am not a COBRA expert. Yes your employee must offer you COBRA, and this includes big brown companies. My understanding is that they have something like 45 days to do so, so it is a little early to start panicking just yet. I have worked for some pretty big companies myself, and I would say that there is a 99.999999999999% chance that your former employer will indeed offer you COBRA before the clock runs out. You might want to read the following. I will also suggest that your employer being stupid enough to break the COBRA laws is a VERY GOOD THING from your standpoint. In the very unlikely event this happens, run not walk to the nearest local attorney and tell them that you have a winning lottery ticket. Since we both know that you are not really that lucky, I am fairly certain that your employer will just send you the package before the deadline passes.
    - No one on this website has read your union contract. Talk to your union about that. That is what they are they for.
    - You mentioned back wages. If wages were due, and they generally are at time of termination, then the wages should have legally been paid on your last day, since you were involuntarily terminated. Are there exceptions? Sure, but the exceptions are mostly for things such as commissions where the employer might have a valid argument that the conditions that make these due wages have not yet fully occurred, like say a payment from the customer. It is very difficult in CA for most normal type of wages to not be considered "due" to a terminated employee very quickly. In CA, this includes vacation. Send your employer a certified letter requesting unpaid wages. If the employer fails to comply, file a wage claim with CA-DLSE. The certified letter will be taken as you exhausting all "reasonable" efforts. If you send an email, or a normal postal mail letter the employer might try to claim that they never got it and you never sent it to them. Might help them and hurt you, might not, but it is worth a try from their point of view. A certified letter closes that door.
    - Should HR have done all of those things you mentioned? Sure, why not. Has your employer broken any laws by HR not doing those things? Probably not.

    I very strongly suspect that you are going to get a package from your former employer sent FedEx, or something requiring a signature. I suspect that HR did not want to answer your questions in person, because they wanted all responses to be something in writing that their lawyers vetted and not some verbal response that the attorneys did not pre-approve. Not talking directly to you accomplishes this. I suspect that once you get and read the package, you are going to have a lot more information then you cirremtly know. Once you share this information, you can get better responses.

    At this minute, much of what you said is guesses, and our answers can be no better then the information that you give us.
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
    Philip K. **** (1928-1982)