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Involuntary LWOP... can you demand to be fired instead?

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  • Involuntary LWOP... can you demand to be fired instead?

    In Virginia.

    Let's say you work for a company that doesn't like to outright fire people. They've been known to exercise "soft firing." They send you home "leave without pay." You know it's permanent. They know it's permanent. But they'd rather it be said that you quit rather than they fired you (particularly if the circumstances of being fired could possibly fall under wrongful termination, but that's a separate issue).

    Is it legal to use LWOP as a means of coercing an employee into quitting? Can an employee state "No, I don't agree to those terms. I'm not leaving. I'm going back to my desk, continuing work on my project, and you're going to pay me for it. There's nothing you can do about it except terminate my employment."

    It seems reasonable to me that this would be the case, since otherwise, companies would never have to fire anyone and expose themselves to wrongful termination suits. They could just send people home without pay indefinitely, knowing that when they get hungry enough they'll quit on their own. On the other hand, I can't find anything on the internet specifically discussing misuse of LWOP as an alternative to immediate termination.

    I ask this question because someone I know has reason to believe they will be terminated on Friday, but it will be handed out in the form of LWOP. They are rightly concerned that saying "no, I quit" will impact their ability to collect unemployment benefits while transitioning to a new job. It would be much better (and more fair and truthful) for the employer to simply say "you're fired" and be done with it.

  • #2
    More fair and truthful? You bet. But that's not the employee's choice. If this happens to your friend, I would recommend he/she start looking for another job TODAY! Then, when found, they can quit and not worry about unemployment. Besides, if the employer puts an employee cuts the employee's hours substantially (which zero hours certainly does), in most states, they can file for unemployment and receive benefits anway. But not if they quit.

    Your friend should contact the state UI office and inquire ahead of time, just in case.
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