Merger related job change / elimination - Employer won't agree to severance.

I am a long-time employee of a major financial institution, which recently went through a merger. As a direct result of the merger, my position, as I have known it for the past 5 years has completely changed. I'm being asked to give up my flex-schedule (half of my hours worked in the office and half worked from home). After the merger my new manager met with me and agreed to my schedule. A month later she told me that bank policy is changing and my options are to either come back into the office full time or that they would agree to my working part-time in the office. At the same time she told me that there is too much work to eliminate any staff, so she could not give me a severance package. Everything that I did prior to the merger has been eliminated and I have not been given enough new work to fill my schedule. There are others in my group who don't have enough work. I know of at least one employee who telecommutes full time who has heard nothing of this 'new policy on telecommuting', and the policy that is published on our internal website regarding flexible work options has not changed. My argument is that there has never been an issue with my performance and that, because my manager is in another state, she has to manage me virtually whether I am working from the office or from my home. I know that any employer would rather lose people through natural attrition than to pay severance packages. I also know that most manager's don't want to give up FTE. I believe that my manager is trying to justify our group by claiming that we are overloaded, but we aren't. They are trying to force 'natural attrition' so that they don't have to pay a severance package. When asked what the perfect solution would be for me I replied, 'For me to continue working my job in the manner in which I've been working it for the past 5 years.' If I can't do that, then I want a severance package. The bank's severance package states that if a job is eliminated and a comparable position is not offered, then you qualify for a severance package. My employer won't admit that my position was eliminated. Do I have any recourse?

1 answer  |  asked Feb 16, 2005 12:57 PM [EST]  |  applies to Arizona

Answers (1)

Francis Fanning
Severance isn't a right

Your question assumes that if your position is eliminated you are entitled to severance. You are not (unless the bank's severance policy is an ERISA qualified benefit plan). The general rule is that an employer can terminate an employee at will, and that rule most likely applies to you. If the bank really wanted to avoid paying severance, it would not have adopted the policy. Severance is generally paid for two reasons - to give remaining employees a reason to believe they will be treated fairly if laid off, and to extract a release from departing employees. None of this is required by law. Likewise, the bank is not required to continue to allow telecommuting simply because they allowed it at one time. You seen to be arguing for a claim for wrongful failure to terminate. There is no such claim. If you don't want the job, start looking for another one.

posted by Francis Fanning  |  Feb 16, 2005 4:37 PM [EST]

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