If I was unexpectedly laid off after 25 years, what are my rights?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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If I was unexpectedly laid off after 25 years, what are my rights?

I was laid off in the latest of many ‘limited restructuring’ decisions of a huge global company. Now I have a huge contract to sign, and everyone is warning me about loopholes and traps that the company will sneak in, all the while getting not-so-subtle reminders from my direct management and via corporate HR emails that I need to hurry up and sign. Most concerning is what happens if I get a job within the same company which is highly likely, and I already have had informal interviews with 3 departments who want me to come back once the hiring freeze is lifted. Will I loose my accrued PTO? What about the benefits package? On top of it, nearly everyone who was laid off was an

Asked on November 8, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The short answer is unless this violates an existing written employment contract or is age discrimination, you have no rights. It doesn't matter how long you worked there, how good your work was, etc., your employer may lay you off or terminate you at will (at any time, for any reason) so long as they are not violating a contract or engaging in illegal discrimination (like age discrimation). So unless you have a contract or this is discrimination, they can do this. If what they are giving you is not worth any restrictions the agreement places on future employment, you may choose to not sign it--but that's effectively your only option: to weigh the value of what you are getting vs. what you give up and decide what is best for you.
Since you don't mention a contract, we will assume you do not have one. 
You do say that "nearly everyone who was laid off was an 'older' non-millenial that had been working for the company for 20 years." Presumably then, most are 40 or over. The law prohibits discriminating against workers age 40 and up due to their age; a pattern of disproporationately laying off older workers (laying them off in numbers out of proportion to their percentage of the company) may be evidence of illegal age discrimination. Based on what you write, you may wish to contact the federal EEOC or your state's equal/civil rights agency about filing a complaint; the agency may be able to help you. 

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