IfI am laid off and then rehired, doI keep my benefits?

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IfI am laid off and then rehired, doI keep my benefits?

After working for 20 years at the same company my employer laid me off of work and then rehired me after my unemployment ran out. Am I entitled to my same company benefits – insurance, vacations, sick pay and holiday pay that the company offers after returning to work. Doesn’t my 20 years mean anything?

Asked on April 17, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, in the absence of an employment contract of some sort (so that you could potentially show these behavior violated contractual terms), then you *probably* don't have any legal recourse to keep your former or seniority-based benefits. That's  because (1) the company did not have to rehire you at all, and in the absence of a contract, you an employee at will, so they can hire on any terms they like; and (2) companies don't need to offer benefits at all, and may change them on a forward-looking basis for any employee (again, the absence of a contract).

What might give you recourse would be if you can show that you were treated in a disciminatatory fashion on the basis of a protected category--e.g. age. So if younger employees who were rehired (if any) would get benefits, or you can show that your firing and rehiring was discrimination against an older employee to deny the employee benefits, you may be able to make out an employment discrimination cllaim and sue for benefits or compensation. The primary protected categories are age over 40 (which is probably most relevant here); also race, religion, sex, disability.


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