A reader writes:
Last Friday, I was laid off from my job. Apparently the official reason is "lack of work," although my manager kept hammering on the fact that I was getting paid so much more than other people in the same positions.
In our area, we had 4 people working the same positions: 3 permanent employees (including me) and 1 contractor. I have fairly good reason to believe (alas, no proof) that the contractor was hired on as a permanent employee just the week before I was laid off. My guess is for a good $10 less an hour than I was being paid. In my papers to be signed, it was stated that the company could not hire anyone for my position in the coming 90 days. Of course it said nothing about any period prior to my involuntary departure.
My manager advised me to take the severance package (approximately 1 month's pay), yet not to touch it, since they may very well call me back within 60 days and I would have to pay it back. I have a hunch that they will call me back, but only at a much lower pay scale. Is all this legal? If not, what recourse do I have?
First let me say that I'm not a lawyer and this is outside my area of expertise, so I'm doubly unhelpful on this one. I'm hoping someone who can speak more definitively on these issues than I can will weigh in.
However, what I do know is that if your company did lay you off as a method to ultimately get you back at a lower rate of pay, they are not a company you want to work for.
So to me, that trumps the question or whether or not it's legal, although you could certainly speak with a lawyer to determine your options. (Disclaimer: In general, I tend to think people should save legal action for the most egregious situations, simply because it usually means spending a lot of money and even more energy and emotion on something that can be hard to prove.) But my hunch is that unless you can prove that the whole thing was premeditated ("let's hire on the contractor, lay off Susan, and then rehire her at a lower rate of pay"), you'd have little recourse. But hey, that's a hunch with no J.D. behind it, so take it with a grain of salt.
Anyone have more helpful thoughts than my sort of lame advice?