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There is no law that controls whether or not an employer can lay someone off or not. The concept of a "lay off" is entirely company created and is really no different than a termination
So, I'm not sure why you believe it is preferable for them to lay you off rather than terminate you. If they terminate you, you can still file for unemployment. They can try to block your unemployment if they terminate you, but they have the burden of proving that you engaged in misconduct and that's a high burden for them.
If you resign, they absolutely can block your employment and your argument about a poor working environment is very difficult to make work in the present climate (so many people unemployment, the state expects people to be more willing to keep poor jobs, just to have a job).
If you sign the release of claims, you can't sue them for discrimination
or worker's compensation claims. You can still file for unemployment, unless the release of claims also contains your voluntary resignation. I wouldn't 't sign it then. Your unemployment could be worth more than one month's pay.