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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 11250
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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My employer is (in a nutshell) releasing all of the

Customer Question

My employer is (in a nutshell) releasing all of the employees currently working on a specific project for a third party. They are only offering positions on other projects that they have with other third parties or working on the same project at-home for substantially less pay. I have very good reason to believe that our jobs are being moved abroad. I am not sure if I have an employment contract. If I did sign one (over 8 years ago), I don't have a copy but will ask them for a copy if it exists. I do have a FAQ from when we were informed of our release that states that if we leave before our scheduled termination date that we will not be eligible for severance however we were not offered a severance package at that time or thereafter. The FAQ also mentioned that we need to sign a release agreement to be eligible for a SUB-Pay plan package which will include an Unemployment Claims Assistance Letter. I have not received this release agreement because I am currently signed up for one of their projects but am not interested in going to it. We were informed of the employment release on 2/9/16 and will occur on 3/21/16. Do we have a wrongful termination case or any other basis for pursuing any other legal action?
Submitted: 8 months ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 8 months ago.

Hello and thank you for entrusting me to assist you. My name is ***** ***** I will do everything I can to answer your question.

Even if you had an employment contract, you would still be an "at will" employee unless your contract guaranteed employment for a specified period of time and your employer was releasing you prior to that point in time. Assuming you do not have such a clause in your contract, and it seems unlikely that you do, as an at will employee you can be terminated at any time for any reason not amounting to discrimination on the basis of a legally protected trait (race, religion, gender, etc.) or retaliation for engaging in certain forms of legally protected conduct (filing a wage claim, taking FMLA leave, etc.). It doesn't matter whether the basis for termination is fair, reasonable or even true. Thus, you could be let go under the circumstances you describe.

In general, employees have no legal right to severance unless they are part of a "mass layoff" and given less than 60 days notice. A "mass layoff" is defined as the release of 50 or more employees at companies of 100 or more. In this circumstance, something called the WARN Act requires employers to pay however many days wages less than 60 that they provided notice. For example, if the employer only provided 10 days notice, the affected employees would be entitled to 50 days wages.

It is possible for parties to enter into a contractual agreement that severance will be paid in the event of a layoff. However, such agreement must clearly define what triggers severance, the amount of the severance, and payment must be non-discretionary. In other words, if you have an agreement that says "In the event of a layoff, employer SHALL pay employee $5,000" you would have a contractual entitlement to severance because all the terms of the severance are clear. But a mere reference to the possibility of severance does not create a contractual right to severance, as the essential terms for a contract are not there.

So based on what you have described, I must be candid and tell you that no claims for wrongful termination or severance would typically exist. Certainly you can try to negotiate severance, but that would be purely a negotiation. Your employer would have no legal obligation to pay and so you want to be careful not to push to hard.

I hope that you find this information helpful. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.

If you do not require any further assistance, please be so kind as to provide a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you. Very best wishes moving forward.