Businesses sometimes decide to dismiss an employee for grounds related to executing the business. For instance, the business may be undergoing such substantial economic losses that restructuring or downsizing (lowering the number of employees on its payroll) is the soundest way to protect the business.
The layoff may be permanent or short-term. If the layoff is provisional, you must differentiate the layoff from a furlough, which also transpires when a business chooses to decrease labor costs by temporarily terminating the worker’s employment with the business or decreasing the days and hours they work. In the case of a furlough, the employee is not deemed separate from the company and may return to work once the furlough is over.
A layoff is often confused with a firing or termination, as well. They basically have the same outcome—leaving the employee without a job—but are usually done for different reasons. A termination occurs typically when the employee fails to obey company policies or performs unsatisfactorily. Unlike a termination for cause, a layoff means the employee is generally entitled to collect unemployment insurance and benefits.
How Is an Employee Layoff Different from Termination?
A layoff, by definition, means that you may get called back when a business continues. On the other hand, termination is a permanent answer to any employment issue. When an employee gets fired from work, they do not expect to get a callback.
The most noteworthy difference between a layoff and termination is that a layoff is deemed the employer’s fault. In contrast, termination is regarded as the employee’s fault or no-fault.
Can an Employer Lay Off Just One Person?
An employer can lay off as many employees as needed. If a branch is only one employee, then one employee may get laid off. If the employer needs to perform a mass layoff of 50 or more workers to help maintain his business, 50 or more workers can get laid off.
As long as your employer has a legitimate business rationale for a layoff, no minimum or maximum number of employees can get let go.
How Much Notice Should an Employer Deliver Before a Layoff?
Under federal law, the WARN Act directs employers with 100 or more employees to deliver at least 60 days’ notice to employees of mass layoffs. Under the WARN Act, you must receive notice if you have a reduction in force (RIF) involving the following:
- At least 50 full-time employees
- 500 or more full-time workers at one location within 30 days
- 50-499 full-time workers or 33% of the employer’s total full-time workforce at one location
How Much Notice Should an Employer Provide Employees of a Reduction in Force Under State Laws?
State Warn Acts differ between states. Some states, like New York, instruct employers with 50 or more workers to deliver 90 days’ notice when laying off 25 or more employees.
Under New Jersey’s present law, employers with 100 or more full-time workers must deliver at least 60 days’ notice to employees when 50 or more employees will be laid off from work in a 30-day period. Likewise, New Jersey regards all business facility sites under the umbrella of one employer.
California’s WARN Act directs employers with 75 or more full or part-time workers with 50 or more layoffs to receive 60 days’ notice before a layoff.
What Ensues if a Company Only Laid Off Everyone Over 55?
Most states offer at-will employment. Accordingly, an employee can be fired from work for almost any cause. The same is true for layoffs. Employers may lay off workers for nearly any purpose. Nevertheless, the law says employers cannot target employees because they are over a particular age.
What Does it Mean if You Are Laid Off?
A layoff represents different things in different states. It can also be problematic if you sign a separation agreement or severance package. While not mandatory, severance packages are fairly typical when a worker is laid off. They are usually given to confirm the worker’s persisting goodwill towards the business and evade multiple lawsuits against the business by the laid-off employees.
It is not uncommon for employers to propose a severance package to an employee without permitting them to remark on what should be contained in the severance agreement. Usually, only extraordinarily well-placed workers (such as administrators) can arrange the terms of their severance package.
Most severance agreements also demand that you waive your privilege to sue the business and that you agree you will not negatively comment about the business. This frequently puts employees in an untenable situation. Still, these sorts of arrangements are enforceable depending on your state and what the agreement includes. The hours and days following a layoff can be pretty fiery. It’s a good idea to take some time to inspect a severance arrangement before you choose to sign it.
Suppose you received a severance agreement when you were laid off. In that case, you must inspect it carefully to comprehend what you can and cannot do under the terms of the deal. You can review the agreement with an attorney if you are confused about continuing to receive payment under the severance agreement or determine if you reserve any rights to take action against the company.
What Are Some Steps You Can Take Against a Business for Laying You Off?
Whether you may seek action against a business after you have been laid off hinges on various factors, including the terms of any severance agreement you may have entered into and where you live.
If the business engaged in a wide-scale layoff or if its layoff involved a large group of employees, it might be more difficult to demonstrate you have a case against the employer for improperly discontinuing your employment. Nonetheless, if you sense your layoff was more targeted, you may have several claims against the employer.
Presuming there are no legal barriers, you can sue a business under several theories claiming you were unjustly terminated from your employment. You should begin by looking at the circumstances under which you were laid off.
Did your employer lay off older employees as part of a mass layoff? Evaluate whether this might have been a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Were you laid off due to your disability? Your employer might have violated the Americans with Disability Act. Or were you laid off because you belong to a minority group? If so, you may have a Civil Rights claim.
Maybe you exposed some unethical behavior by your business right before you were laid off. Your employer might have overstepped the federal and state whistleblower laws. Ultimately, suppose you were on leave pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act when you were laid off. In that case, you may have a claim against the employer.
Should I Consult an Attorney If I Was Just Laid Off from My Job?
Suppose you feel you have been unfairly laid off or are uncertain whether to sign your severance agreement. In that case, you should consult with a wrongful termination attorney. A qualified attorney in your state can make sure you are not signing away your rights and that you fully understand what you are entitled to receive in the event of a layoff.