I am the Executive Director of a nonprofit. I received two stellar performance reviews over the last two years. This year, with no notice at all, that I needed to improve and also board members telling me I was doing a good job, I just got a mediocre review. I was asked to take a demotion and told they were going to dismiss me and hire someone else for the E.D. job. I refused the demotion. They, of course, want a smooth transition. I feel I have a wrongful firing suit, but my question pertains to getting unemployment benefits. Since I am being dismissed, can they stop me from getting unemployment benefits?Marsha
State/Country relating to question: Colorado
This just happened. I was told they were hiring my replacement via email and removing me from the position.
Hello Marsha,As you may know, Colorado is an employment "At Will" state. That means that unless there is a written contract or company policy that gives an employee more job protection they can be terminated, or demoted, for any or no reason, and with no notice or warning. The only other constraint on the employer being able to do this is that they cannot target an employee for adverse employment action simply because that employee is a member of a protected class under employment discrimination laws. So, unless your situation fits within one of the exceptions, there would be no legal issue related to wrongful Termination. As for the unemployment eligibility issue, that is a bit more complicated. No one, other than the State can tell you whether or not you will qualify for benefits since each case is decided on a case by case basis after they have gathered all the facts from both the employer and the employee. However, I can tell you what the law says in general. If an employee refuses a job change, then unless they can prove to the State that the change was either based on an unlawful act, or the job was unsuitable based on the employee's training, education and background, then they will not be eligible for unemployment if the employer lets them go because of the refusal. In other words, if the State determines that the job was "suitable" and not a product of unlawful acts, the claimant is not eligible for UI benefits. On the other hand if, for example, there was evidence that the Demotion either violated a written contract or was undertaken because the employee is a member of a protected class, then the refusal of the job would not disqualify the employee.I can tell you though that if you refuse this job, and are terminated, your employer will likely dispute your eligibility for Unemployment Benefits and you will then have to appeal a denial and present your side of the facts to a Hearing Officer who will make a decision based on what I advised you of above.
I am a little confused about the Protected Class part of your response. I am 62 years old. Does that make me a protected class? Marsha
Hello again,Actually anyone who is over 40 years of age is in the protected class related to age. Under Federal law the Act is the ADEA. Colorado age discrimination law covers workers from 40 to 70 years of age. Under Federal law a worker must prove that the only reason the adverse action was taken was because they are over 40. In other words, there can not be any evidence that there was any other reason for the action, even if there is also reason to believe that age was a part of the reason. Whereas with State law, it can be a bit more favorable, so if there is a smoking gun that age was one of the reasons, then that would at least give you a shot in State court. That said, if other workers over 40 have not been treated adversely, it would be very difficult to show age discrimination to the level necessary to sustain an action.
Licensed Attorney with 27 yrs. exp in Employment Law
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