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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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My employer is going through a re-organization of some of its

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My employer is going through a re-organization of some of its departments. My department migrated from one entity to another entity last month. Additionally, the umbrella department to which my department belongs to is also consolidating its office locations from hundreds to only a few. My office is was not chosen as one of the locations. My job has been re-located to another state, (My current location is in California). Additionally, my departments leadership are requesting all of the non-executive level employees to re-apply for their own positions, including mine. The positions are being posted internally as well as externally. They have also changed the job qualifications, so that for most, including myself do not seem qualified for their positions. What's worse, is that my position, as well as others, has been downgraded to a lower level, so even if I do get it, I will be demoted. Also, since now we are employees of different entity, and our current office will remain to the previous entity, if we wish to remain in the office, we have to apply to entry level rep positions. If not, then we can take the severance package. They have given us only a few weeks to decide. I would like to know if there are any legal issues involved here. Thanks.
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question. I am very sorry to hear about this restructuring and can imagine this must be a very stressful time.

Unfortunately, the laws in this area strongly favor the employer. Absent an employment contract guaranteeing employment for a specified period of time, employment in the state of California is presumed to be "at will." More specifically, California Labor Code Section 2922 provides that: "employment, having no specified term, may be terminated at the will of either party on notice to the other." What this means is that an employer is free to terminate or demote employees for any reason whatsoever, even a reason that is entirely unfair, unless the underlying motivation is discriminatory or otherwise in violation of California law.

Companies are free to restructure at any time and can make employees reapply for positions they have already held. Essentially, employers retain tremendous discretion to manage their business in any way that they see fit, and the law does not mandate fairness or reasonableness in their decisions. Unless your employer's conduct constitutes a specific breach of contract (i.e. your position was guaranteed for 2 years) or you suspect a discriminatory motive such as race (which would be extremely hard to argue since this restructuring is happening across the board on the corporate level and you are not the only employee affected), the conduct you describe, while quite unfortunate, would not ordinarily be illegal.

With regard to severance, an employer is generally under no legal obligation to offer any at all. However, pursuant to the Federal WARN act, where an employer with at least 100 employees lays off at least 50 during a 30-day period, they must either give 60 days notice of the lay off or pay 60 days wages. Of course, you would be in the best position to determine whether your employer is in compliance with WARN.

I realize that the law is not entirely in your favor here and I am truly sorry to have to deliver bad news. Nonetheless, I trust that you will appreciate an accurate explanation of the law and realize that it would be unprofessional of me and unfair to you to provide you with anything less.

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, I would be most grateful if you would remember to provide my service a positive rating, as this is the only way I will receive credit for assisting you.

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

Very best wishes to you.
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