Is it legal for a company to “sell” it’s employees?

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Is it legal for a company to “sell” it’s employees?

I have worked for a company in NYC with an outsourcing accounting division for 5 1/2 years. I was informed about a week ago that I, along with a few other employees, were being sold (I was told our company received a fee for us) to one of our clients. We were told that if the client offers us a position in their company and we refuse it, we will be terminated from our current job without a severance package or unemployment benefits. If the client does not offer us a position then we continue in our current job. Is this legal? I’ve heard of companies selling a division but not employees!

Asked on April 26, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

"Sold" is an unfortunately choice of words...you're not really being "sold." However, unless you have an employment contract to the contrary, you are employees at will. That means that your company may fire you at will, for any reason. So they can say that they will terminate anyone offered a position with the client who turns down that position--that is their right. If they terminate you, they don't have to give you severance (again, unless you have an agreement to the contrary), since the law does  not require severance. They may not be able to deny you unemployment, since employers don't make the rules for unemployment eligibility--the state does. If you are not fired for cause and you do not quit, you generally are eligibile for unemployment, though you should review the state unemployment website and/or call the unemployment office for more information.


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