Existing employees relocated then laid off 4-months later

Let me first give you my situation.

I worked at a company's Salt Lake City office for two and a half years and then the company closed that office.
Continued employment was offered to all the employees at that office if they accepted a paid relocation to our individual choice of Florida or Maryland.

In the course of offering us the relocation they also stated thier desire that all of us relocate and that they considered all of us valuable employees.

They also stated that there were no plans to close the Maryland offices when asked about the security of that site.

We were also required to sign a contract stating that if we left the company within 12 months of the relocation we would be responsible for paying back prorated relocation costs.

After moving to the Maryland offices, we were also told by an HR representative that if we were terminated without cause within 12 months of relocating that we would be reimbursed for relocation back to Utah.

Four and a half months after relocating to Maryland, the Maryland offices were closed and all of it's employees laid-off. Everyone got the same package, and no special consideration was given to the relocated employees except to continue relocation benefits while releasing us from repayment of our relocation costs.

Now for the questions.

What effect does this situation have on our at-will status?
According to the relocation contract, We can not leave the company for 12 months on our own accord, therefore we would think that we were no longer at-will employees.

We were told by a representative of the company's HR department that we were intitled to relocation costs back to Utah if we were terminated wtihout cause within 12 months of relocation.
Upon our termination, we were not offered relocation back to Utah. Does that constitute breach of contract?

Further more we were also told that there were no plans to close the site in Maryland when we asked about the security of the Maryland offices before the relocation.
Does this imply job security at the Maryland offices?

Also, at the time of termination, myself and others who relocated with me had not completed our relocation. I had placed money down and signed a contract to have a home built in Maryland. My termination prevents me from getting the new home, potentialy costs me money to get out of the home contract, and prevents me from recieving the reimbursment of closing costs promised in the relocation agreement.
Could this constitute a breach of contract?

There are also other hardships that I personally have had to deal with during the process of relocation. My wife was pregnent and for three months had to keep our house in Salt Lake City in salable condition while I worked in Maryland. I had to move my family into temporary living quarters (Three children, my wife, and myself in a small two bedroom appartment with minimal household goods) which we are now stuck in becuase I have lost my job and can not get the home we had under contract to build.

Also, if we decided to persue this in court, would we have a case, and what state would hold jurisdiction? Utah? Maryland? Florida (the company headquarters)?

Thank you

1 answer  |  asked Jul 21, 2002 02:38 AM [EST]  |  applies to Maryland

Answers (1)

Michael Snider
Complicated Case

This sounds like a fact-intensive case. You did not mention how many employees were effected by this situation - it may be enough for a class action or group complaint. Although I cannot render legal advice over the internet, your written contract (I'd have to read it to see all of the points) may have given you more rights than an at-will arrangement; you may also have a cause of action for detrimental reliance upon their representation. Please contact me for an initial interview. 410-808-9445. Snider& Fischer, LLP

posted by Michael Snider  |  Aug 4, 2002 10:30 PM [EST]

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