I was recently relocated across the country for a position at a better company (leaving behind a good paying, secure job that my heart was no longer in). I was worried about the immediate future of the company (lots of merger/buyout talks) and said I didn’t know if I could take the position because I was upside down on my house and would take a big hit selling. The HR person told me that my contract spelled out the severance package if the company was bought out and that there would be no layoffs for at least the next 6 months. I figured that 6 months would allow me to cover the hit on my house if I got laid off and give me enough time to prove my skill set. However, after 3 months, they announced layoffs and I was let go. Is there recourse that I can do other than accept the severance package (much smaller than if the company got bought) and be upset?
I would not have accepted the job had I known that layoffs would occur this soon and I was even promised that they would not. It was just not written in my contract, just expressed verbally. Also, they paid relocation, and if I left within the first year, I had to pay back a pro-rated amount. Does that impact my at-will status since if I chose to quit willingly I would take a financial hit? They told me it had nothing to do with performance, I just knew the least about the business model itself compared to my teammates, which makes sense, because I was told to expect a 3-6 month learning curve.
Once again, I must point out that I am not a lawyer. And even if I was a lawyer (which I’m not), I don’t know what state you are in. But, in my non-lawyerly way, I’d tell you to pick up the phone book (does anybody do that anymore? Okay, go to Google.) and find yourself an employment lawyer.
In some states a verbal promise is as good as a contract. (I believe, remember, not a lawyer!) Even if it’s not, it would be worth it to get a lawyer’s opinion on this.
I would ask for more severance. I would ask for, at minimum, what you were promised in case of a buy-out. In fact, I would ask for more because of false promises. Talk about a stupidly short-sighted company. (I know, I know, who could have predicted the sub prime mortgage market would collapse and spread into all areas of the economy? Oh, that’s right, everyone with half a brain could have predicted it, except for the people who actually dealt in sub prime mortgages. Go figure.) Only in the rarest of circumstances should a company do a position elimination for someone who has only worked there for 3 months. I say, if a position needs to go, it should be the manager who was fool enough to hire someone he wouldn’t have work for in 3 months.
Sorry, a bit ranty today. I don’t often say this, but I honestly say you should contact a lawyer. Don’t look to win the employment law lottery. It’s not worth that. But a nicely worded letter or phone call from your attorney to the legal department of your company may be quite effective.
This is one of the times I say don’t sign the release that is undoubtedly part of the severance offer until it’s been reviewed by an attorney. Make sure that your full relocation costs are covered as well.
Good luck on the job hunt. Don’t let this get you discouraged.