Can one be forced into a new role when the position is eliminated?

My employer of 15+ years usually provides options when a position is eliminated: to relocate to another department of their choice or to leave with a severance package. However, they are not offering me the lay-off with a package in my view because I am pregnant. They offered me a role with different reporting structure as my only option. I feel I am being forced to either take the new role or leave. My desired outcome is to be voluntary laid-off with a severance package after an impecable record with the company. I feel discriminated as I am not being given the same options as other employees under the same situation. Please help me understand how can I position my situation to HR en leave on good terms but with severance deal.

2 answers  |  asked Jul 30, 2015 3:59 PM [EST]  |  applies to Florida

Answers (2)

Phyllis Towzey
First, let me say I'm sorry to hear that you find yourself in this position. I'm sure it's very upsetting considering the timing and your many years of service with the company. The issue is going to be how different the new role is - you mention it's a new reporting structure, but it's not clear from your question whether it's also a substantially different job. If the company is reorganizing and just realigning your old responsibilities under a new reporting structure, then you probably have no choice but to accept the position. I agree with Mr. Schofield that you have a very difficult claim if you turn down the offer.

However, if the job is sufficiently different in duties, and in the past the company has a practice of offering the option of a transfer OR a severance package, then you should tell HR that you don't understand why this choice is not being offered to you, and that you are concerned that it may be related to your pregnancy. Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (part of Title VII) a company must treat you the same as they would if you were not pregnant. This also means, however, that being pregnant does not give you any additional job protection (other than your rights under the FMLA).

Good luck!

posted by Phyllis Towzey  |  Jul 31, 2015 11:07 AM [EST]
Arthur Schofield
Your claim will be a difficult one as you are effectively wanting to turn down employment and cut off a stream of income. I would recommend speaking to HR and letting them know that the new position is not one that you desire or believe will be a fit. Perhaps after that conversation they will better understand that a severance is appropriate. You may not have been offered a severance because you are pregnant and the employer is concerned that offering you one, or effectively terminating your employment, will result in a legal claim.

Best of luck.

posted by Arthur Schofield  |  Jul 31, 2015 05:05 AM [EST]

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