What Does a Temporary Layoff Mean?

What Does a Temporary Layoff Mean?

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What Does a Temporary Layoff Mean?

A temporary layoff is when an employer temporarily pauses their employment relationship with the employee. Employers usually arrive at this decision for various reasons. For example, when the employer does not have any more work for that particular employee, they may consider a temporary layoff. Here's everything you need to know about temporary layoffs.

Understanding a Temporary Layoff

A temporary layoff is usually an option when an employer can no longer guarantee work for a particular employee and does not want to end their employment relationship. The greatest advantage of this option is that it provides the employee with a sense of job security because the decision is temporary.

In most cases, employers consider temporary layoffs in situations beyond their control. For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses across the country had to slow down their operations. Many employers were unaware of when the pandemic would end.

The travel and hospitality industry was one of the most affected industries during the pandemic. As a result, many companies in this field temporarily laid off their workers.

This decision was common in jobs requiring direct interaction with customers due to the quarantine rules during the pandemic. Jobs that required direct interaction with consumers, such as waiters and waitresses, were no longer necessary then. As a result, many companies temporarily laid off their workers in the service industry.

During the first few months of the pandemic, many businesses were unsure when they'd resume normal operations. Some thought that the pandemic would last a couple of weeks, but it didn't—a year later, many businesses were still under lockdown. As a result, many workers who had been temporarily laid off eventually lost their job.

This shows that a temporary layoff isn't considered a layoff. The former only requires an employee to stay off work temporarily until certain conditions are met.

A good example of such a condition is when the lockdown ends (during the pandemic era). On the other hand, when an employee is laid off, it means that the employer has permanently ended the employer-employee relationship. In other words, it means that the individual is no longer considered an employee of the company.

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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

  • What Are the Benefits of a Temporary Layoff?

    No employee wants to lose their source of income, especially during these tough economic times. However, a temporary layoff is usually better than a layoff. Here's why:

    You Have Job Security

    When you've been laid off temporarily, your employer can always hire you back once certain conditions are met. Using the Covid-19 pandemic era as an example, some businesses were able to recall their workers when they resumed normal operations. Therefore, although you may be temporarily out of work, you may still be able to resume your previous job if certain conditions are met.

    You Don't Need to Reapply for the Job

    Employees who have been temporarily laid off also don't have to go through the complex application process when they resume working. Since they previously worked for the company before being temporarily laid off, their employers would waive the need to submit new applications, pass background checks, attend interviews, and other tedious processes.

    You Can Keep Some Employment Benefits

    You may still be able to keep certain employment benefits even though you've been temporarily laid off. For example, you may be able to keep your health insurance and retirement benefits. However, there's no guarantee that you will keep these benefits for the entire time you've been laid off temporarily. This is because some employers may decide to terminate the employment relationship months down the line, meaning you'll no longer be eligible for these benefits.

    This was quite common during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since many employers didn't know when the pandemic would end, what started as a temporary layoff for their employees ended as permanent termination. This is because some of these businesses couldn't survive the lockdown and had to shut down as a result.

    You May Have Access to Unemployment Benefits

    These are benefits accorded to individuals who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. However, to qualify for unemployment benefits, you must meet certain requirements. These requirements vary from state to state. For instance, in Washington, you must:

    • Be unemployed
    • Have been working in Washington for the past 12 months
    • Earned a minimum amount of wages per Washington's guidelines
    • Be actively seeking employment as you receive unemployment benefits

    On the other hand, in California, you must:

    • Be unemployed
    • Have earned enough wages per California's wage guidelines
    • Be able to work
    • Be ready to work immediately
    • Be unemployed, either partially or totally
    • Be unemployed through no fault of your own

    The bottom line is that each state has its own unique requirements. If you're considering applying for unemployment benefits, check your state's regulations to determine your eligibility.

  • Is a Temporary Layoff Legal?

    Whether or not a temporary layoff is legal depends on various circumstances. Generally, most states observe the “at-will” employment doctrine. This legal concept gives employers the power to hire and fire employees at will, as long as the reason for hiring or firing them is not illegal. So when an employer decides to temporarily lay off their employer, in most cases, it is usually within their rights.

    However, there's a thin line between a legal temporary layoff and an illegal one. To put things into perspective, we'll discuss examples of illegal temporary layoffs.

    When a Temporary Layoff Is an Act of Retaliation

    Most employers know that it is illegal to retaliate against employees for participating in various protected activities in the workplace. For this reason, some rogue employers may use a temporary layoff as an excuse to retaliate against certain employees. They do this knowing that such employees cannot take legal action against employers for laying them off temporarily.

    As discussed earlier, most states follow the “at-will” employment doctrine, meaning employers are legally allowed to hire or fire employees just as long as the reason for making such a decision isn't illegal.

    A rogue employer may want to use a temporary layoff as an excuse to retaliate against you for participating in protected activities such as:

    • Offering to cooperate in ongoing investigations about the employer
    • Refusing to participate in illegal activities in the workplace
    • Filing a worker's compensation claim following an injury in the workplace
    • Reporting an employer for violating labor and employment laws
    • Intervening to protect other employees whose rights have been violated

    Rather than directly informing you that you've been fired, an employer might use a temporary layoff as an excuse to get rid of you for a short period before eventually firing you. In that case, the temporary layoff might be considered illegal.

    Employer retaliation comes in different forms. And since many employers are becoming increasingly careful about how they treat their employees in order to avoid getting in trouble with the law, you don't expect an employer to make such costly mistakes.

    More specifically, you shouldn't expect your employer to be straightforward with their actions if they intend to punish you.

    Some employers might use a temporary layoff as an excuse to punish you through demotion. They do this because they know they cannot legally demote you for participating in certain protected activities in the workplace.

    So instead of firing you directly, here's what they'll do:

    The employer will inform you that you're being laid off temporarily. They'll come up with a face-value excuse for this decision. For instance, they could claim that the business is no longer making enough money to support your department. Since this sounds like a reasonable reason, many employees will likely fall for it.

    Months later, your employer recalls you to work, but then you notice that your terms of employment have significantly changed. For example, your employer might require you to take a huge salary cut even though other employees in the department are still earning what they used to earn, or even more, before being temporarily laid off.

    You'll be shocked to discover that the company isn't making losses as your employer claims. You may also be surprised to learn that the other employees in the department, who were also laid off around the same time as you, were used to hiding the fact that your employer was only targeting you.

    In addition, you may also discover that other employees who worked in the same department as you were also recalled back to work weeks or months before you. And when you resumed working, your employer required you to accept a pay cut.

    When the Temporary Layoff Is Based on Discrimination

    It is illegal for employers to discriminate against their employees. Generally, labor and employment laws all over the country prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on certain protected characteristics such as:

    • Gender
    • Race
    • Age
    • Religious beliefs
    • Sexual orientation
    • National origin
    • Disability

    But this doesn't stop some employers from using different tactics to discriminate against their employees. Since temporary layoffs are legal, some employers take advantage and violate their employee's rights.

    Here's an example of such a situation:

    Let's say you have a disability and your employer doesn't want to provide reasonable accommodations as required by law. In that case, they might decide to lay off members of your department, including you, temporarily. Then, months later, your employer recalls other employees from work except you.

    You then realize that all employees who have been recalled to work did not have any disability. This could be a classic case of discrimination based on disability while using a temporary layoff as a face-value excuse.

    When the Reason for a Temporary Layoff Violates an Employment Contract

    Suppose you had an employment contract with your employer stating that your job position and salary are guaranteed for a specific period. In that case, your employer cannot lay you off, whether permanently or temporarily. This is because you had an agreement, and laying you off—permanently or temporarily—violates this agreement.

    It's also important to note that you don't necessarily need a written contract with your employer to arrive at such a conclusion. For example, if your employer made such a promise to you, either verbally or implied, the agreement might still be valid.

  • How Long Should a Temporary Layoff Last?

    Since most states apply the “at-will” employment legal doctrine in these kinds of situations, temporary layoffs are not limited to a specific timeframe. Instead, they can last for many months, depending on your employer's situation.

    Take the Covid-19 pandemic as an example; many employers didn't know when the pandemic would end. As a result, companies that temporarily laid off their employees couldn't specify a specific date for them to resume working.

  • What Should I Do If I Was Wrongfully Laid Off?

    If you suspect your employer broke the laws when they laid you off, whether temporarily or permanently, you may need to speak with an experienced labor and employment attorney. This is because there are a lot of gray areas when it comes to labor and employment laws. For example, most states give employers so much power over their employees. Even so, there are limits to what an employer can or cannot do.

    A Morgan and Morgan labor and employment attorney can help if you are in such a situation.

  • Why Morgan and Morgan

    At Morgan and Morgan, we've handled many different cases of employers violating their employee's rights. We know that times are changing and these kinds of cases are becoming increasingly popular. As a result, rogue employers have devised newer ways to violate their employees' rights.

    But you shouldn't be concerned about that when you let Morgan and Morgan attorneys handle your case. In fact, Morgan and Morgan files the most labor and employment disputes anywhere in the country. This is a true testimony of our competence and experience handling these kinds of cases.

    If you suspect that your employer has violated your rights, we might be able to help. All you need to do is contact us for a free case evaluation.

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