My company closed my home office while I was away on an expat assignment. Now they are pressuring me

My company closed my home office while I was away on an expat assignment. Now they are pressuring me to accept a change to my assignment and a new agreement that is less favorable to me. I am an American. The company is French-owned but incorporated in Ireland. My contract says that Florida law governs. I am in a protected class on two criteria: my gender and age. No fewer than three people in the management team has made comments indicating they will not necessarily provide benefits in my current agreement or that some shady selection criteria are being applied. For example: I was told by former manager that everyone in my department except 2 or 3 low performers were offered a job and a severance package to choose from. I was offered a disappointing job. When I asked what the severance package is, my old manager said he would get information to me but none is forthcoming. The new manager said that they are actually not required to offer me severance, implying that I would be treated differently than my peers back home have been treated. My contract says that I will be repatriated to a US job subject to the availability of a position. I have been shown org charts wtih no fewer than 6 empty spots and had a conversation in which new manager said I would be qualified for those jobs but more useful in a job in Ireland. In a conversation 3 days later, I was told there are no jobs available in US, even in the same conversation where I'm told about how the work is not progressing right now because of a lack of people in the jobs there. I asked why the original more favorable job offer was replaced with a less favorable one. New manager agreed that I could do the job easily and the person they placed in it instead lacked a key qualification for it. But they didn't want to lose the other guy, he can't travel. In a 2nd conversation a week later, new manager's new boss told me that he thought a 30-something person is more inclined to stay for a long time but a person in their 50's is likely to leave so he would prefer the first. I am an American, age 52. The person placed in the new job is an Irish national probably in early 40's. My old manager, is now pointing out that the company can end my current assignment, implying that if I don't sign the new agreement, then I'd have nothing. But my agreement says that if the employer chooses to end the agreement early, I will be repatriated to a US job subject to the availabilty of a job -- unless I am fired for non-completion of duties. So i suppose the threat is that they will make up some reason why I am not doing a good job. What protections do I have in this case? If I find a new job outside the company and leave before I am let go without severance (because I will surely reject the very bad offer they are making), have I forfeited any rights I do have? Because the whole reason I feel compelled to leave is that I am hearing so many insinuations that the company will not honor the terms of the contract they have with me. If they complied, I would stay.

1 answer  |  asked Sep 28, 2016 11:00 PM [EST]  |  applies to Florida

Answers (1)

Phyllis Towzey
You have a complicated situation that cannot be adequately addressed in a quick online response. I recommend you consult with an employment law attorney to discuss your options. In your situation, it is well worth the expense of a consultation fee to come up with a solid plan.

It is possible that your company is violating the ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) in their selection process, but it's difficult to base an entire lawsuit on an isolated comment. The home office closed, so that is clearly not a discriminatory act directed toward you. But the choice to go with someone in their 30's because they would be expected to remain with the company longer is a violation of the ADEA -- if you can prove that's what's going on.

You need to consult with an attorney specializing in employment law and weigh the potential advantages and risks of having the attorney either (a) write a letter to your company now asserting possible age discrimination, and demanding fair treatment; or (b) write an opinion letter to you on the discrimination issue that you in turn could show your boss and use as leverage in your own negotiations.

If you resign, then you may or may have waived your rights -- if they tell you sign the new contract or you are fired and you refuse to sign it, then that could be considered "constructive discharge" and your rights would be preserved. If you find a new job and leave before they can fire you, then yes, you likely have given up your rights. But that may be the best course of action for you. Finding a new job and moving on is often a better option that either forcing your company to retain you when they don't want to, or spending 2-3 years embroiled in a legal battle.

Bottom line - get some specific legal advice. Your situation is complicated.

posted by Phyllis Towzey  |  Sep 29, 2016 06:20 AM [EST]

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