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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
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Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I work in the State of California. I asked my employer to lay

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I work in the State of California. I asked my employer to lay me off at a date convenient for her. I was a temporary worker with no guarantee or offer of extended employment or permanent employment. In an e-mail, she agreed to lay me off, and she agreed to not challenge my application for unemployment insurance benefits. Based on these agreements in an e-mail, after my employment ended, I filed for unemployment insurance as "laid off." On my last day of work, I blew the whistle (about unethical issues I witnessed under her watch) to her superiors. Well, I imagine she was quite upset about that, so she contested my application for UI, and now the EDD is saying that I committed fraud. I have filed an appeal based on the proof shown in the emails (which I provided to the EDD), but I want to know -- is it illegal for an employer to mislead and promise an employee to lay him or her off but then later claim the employee voluntarily left? Is the email documentation enough proof so that it can be considered as promissory estoppel? Am I at risk of going to jail or paying a huge fine? Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to assist you. I am so sorry to hear about the difficult situation you now find yourself faced with.

What the EDD will be concerned with are the actual circumstances of an employee's departure--not merely how the employer and employee superficially agreed to characterize it. Furthermore, the EDD is not concerned with how employment "would have" ended, but rather with how it actually ended. This means that even when an employee knows they are going to be fired or eventually laid off, if he or she prematurely quits, that is how the separation of employment will be determined.

In accordance with the above, the EDD will not give any weight to the agreement you may have entered into with your employer to lay you off on a particular date. The reality is that you were the moving party with regard to your separation of employment, and where an employee is the moving party, they will typically be ineligible for benefits.

This unfortunately remains true even if the employee's termination in the near future is inevitable. The EDD has gone so far as to find in some cases that, even where an employee is fired but asked to finish out the week, that he or she forfeits the right to collect UI benefits if he or she quits even a day before the scheduled final day.

Since the EDD is concerned with who was the moving party, the agreement you entered into with your former employer not to contest your benefits would be irrelevant. In order to prevail on your claim for UI benefits, you would have to show that you were forced out of your position, on the date you left, against your will.

Of course, none of this is to say that you committed some sort of intentional fraud by describing your separation of employment to the EDD as a "layoff." With regard to pursuing claims of fraud, it would typically need to be shown that you engaged in a willful and intentional deception. Your claim to have been "laid off," though technically inaccurate, is more a result of a misunderstanding about what constitutes a layoff rather than an attempt to intentionally deceive. This fact should be reiterated to the EDD.

Only in the most egregious cases do individuals accused of UI fraud actually go to jail. Here, the mistake was quite innocent. If you received benefits under this false pretense of being "laid off," you will have to pay them back, and if the EDD believes that you attempted to perpetrate an intentional deception, you may be asked to pay a penalty assessment, but even this is far from certain.

Beyond this, the EDD would need to refer the matter to the District Attorney, who could then choose to prosecute or decline to press charges. As noted, it would be almost unfathomable that any sort of criminal charge could result on the basis of the facts described.

I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX this information helps you and I wish you the best.

If you do not have any further concerns, I would be very grateful if you would give my answer a positive rating and click submit, as this is the only way I will receive credit for assisting you. If you have any additional concerns that you would like me to address, please feel free to let me know by hitting the REPLY or CONTINUE CONVERSATION button and I will be more than happy to continue assisting you.

Finally, please bear in mind that none of the above constitutes legal advice nor is any attorney client relationship created between us.

Thank you and very kindest regards.
Patrick, Esq. and other California Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for this very informative information. I really appreciate it. It's really unfortunate how this all turned out, and with the email agreement I had with my former employer to lay me off, I had absolutely thought I was eligible to apply for UI based on those agreements. I understand I have the crap end of the stick Cry, so I will at least plead to the judge the truth -- that I did not intentionally deceive and apply for UI benefits because of the misunderstanding based on the email exchange. It's a good thing I did not use any UI money, so they can take it all back. Thank you again, for your help!

Thank you very much for your positive rating and bonus. I wish you the very best moving forward.