Can a company offer severance and then take the offer back?

I work for a company in New York(an at will state) that has restructured. They changed my job spec but said they would retain me in the new structure. Unfortunately the rest of the team was told they could apply for other roles or they could take 8 weeks severance. I asked if I could get severance as well if I decided the structure wouldn't work for me. I was verbally told yes on three occasions and once in an email. When I said to the HR manager I would like to accept the severance and leave I was told I wasn't eligible because my job wasn't eliminated and that if I "quit" it was my choice. Is there no legal recourse if I was told multiple times my severance would be the same as the other members and then that offer taken back.

1 answer  |  asked Nov 4, 2016 2:28 PM [EST]  |  applies to New York

Answers (1)

V Jonas Urba
Be thankful that you are still employed.

Do NOT quit unless you find a new job with a definite pay rate and start date. If you line up a new job, quit, and then are fired from the new job you should be able to collect unemployment. If you quit without another job lined up you will probably not qualify for unemployment benefits.

As for contracts, if they knew that you were relying on the severance and had taken action (making plans to move or selling your house) and that you had relied on their promise of severance then you may have detrimentally relied on their promise to offer you severance.

If they simply refuse to pay you something they were not required to pay you how would you prove that you gave something in return for the severance (made some bargain with them) they offered and then took back? No employer is required to provide severance.

However, if they offered severance only to women or to another protected class or group of employees and you are not female nor a member of the group or class which was denied severance and it was because of such illegal reason that they denied severance that might be actionable.

Consult with a labor and employment lawyer to be sure. The facts determine what claim or claims you may have and you can not possibly list all the relevant facts on this list serve in order for anyone to provide you with an actionable or reliable answer. Get counsel.

We often discover things like improper pay practices or other violations of law when speaking with employees and more often than not we negotiate even better packages than employees are offered on their own (we can never guarantee a better severance package but it is no secret that your signing a general waiver or release of potential claims or actions against an employer is worth money to any employer). Good luck.

posted by V Jonas Urba  |  Nov 10, 2016 11:58 AM [EST]

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