Company reloacted, offered severance unless employee agreed to relocate. Agreed but resigned later.

As a result of a merger, in September 2002, my company offered a severance package for those that did not wish to relocate in the town that the company was moving everyone which was 1200 miles away.
Employees were given until December 31st 2002 to state their preferences, take a job in the new city or receive severence.
I was offered a job, different from the one that I currently had. I accepted the job and proceeded to work on the job at the current location. In March of 2003, I was told to move to the new location. I showed up fo rthe job at the new location on the date specified. I worked at the job for five weeks but due to having to move my elderly mother to the new town and the risk to her health, it was determined that I would have to resign my position for I could not relocate my mother.
I gave the company my two weeks notice and left, returning to the town I was at originally. I took a new job.
I have given up five years of tenure with the previous company as a result of their relocating.
Am I entitled to severance? The company said no, since I accepted a job in the new location. I did find out, that they paid severance ot several that reloacted and then decided to resign and return to the previous town. Perhaps they negotiated this prior to tendering their resignation.
What are my chances of receiving any severance three weeks after leaving the company?

1 answer  |  asked Jul 2, 2003 5:01 PM [EST]  |  applies to Arizona

Answers (1)

Francis Fanning
Severance isn't mandated

When you decided to take the new job rather than the severance, you made an election. The company had no obligation to offer severance at all, so there is no argument I can think of that would entitle you to expect it after you turned it down in favor of the job.
Some severance plans are set up to meet the requirements of ERISA, the law governing employee retirement and benefit plans. ERISA plans have to be administered in compliance with the terms of the plan, which gives the administrator (most likely the company you worked for) even less discretion than it might otherwise have in handing out benefits.
The fact that some others may have been given benefits after changing their minds about staying with the company would only give you recourse if you could prove that some kind of unlawful discrimination was at work, i.e. race, religion, national origin, sex, disability or age played a role in the decision to treat you differently than the others. That will probably be very difficult to prove.
The "five years of tenure" that you "gave up" means nothing. You were probably an "at will" employee with no promise of job security, so tenure is simply the passage of time. It has no legal significance. Besides, as you say, you gave it up. It wasn't taken from you. You made a choice based upon your personal obligation to your mother and her needs. While that is admirable, it doesn't entitle you to anything more than anyone who quits a job for any personal reason.

posted by Francis Fanning  |  Jul 3, 2003 4:54 PM [EST]

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