Can an employer change their mind after they tell you that you are being laid off?

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Can an employer change their mind after they tell you that you are being laid off?

I was verbally told by my employer that I would be laid off. This was also confirmed in an email and a date was provided. I have restricted stock at my employer that I would receive as part of a severance package. I subsequently found 2 other employment opportunities. One is for a higher salary than the other and they committed to reimbursing me for any unvested stock that I might lose. The other provides a much better work environment but the compensation is slightly lower and they don’t reimburse for any unvested stock. I plan on accepting the lower paying job since I will get my stock and additional compensation as part of the severance package. If I wasn’t being laid off and receiving

severance I would take the higher paying position. Do I have any recourse if my employer decides to change their mind and decides not to lay me off. For example, if they find out that I accepted an offer and don’t lay me off hoping to avoid paying severance?

Asked on March 31, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Aslong as your employer changes its mind prior to laying you off, then it is legal to do so. That is unless doing in some way this would violate the terms of a union agreement or employment contract. The fact is that most work is "at will" which means that a company can set the conditions of employment much as it sees fit (absent any type of legally actionable discrimination). Note: Your company cannot change its mind after your layoff.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

No, unfortunately, you would not have any recourse if they change their mind prior to the layoff occuring. (They may not change their mind after the fact.) Employment in this country is "employment at will": that means, among other things, that the employer can change its mind about whether to hire, fire, or retain you at any time, for any reason. Since the employer may lawfully change its mind about your lay-off, you have no recourse if it does. (There is no recourse against people or businesses for doing what they are allowed to do.)


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