when does part time employment become an approach to paying severance and unemployment?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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when does part time employment become an approach to paying severance and unemployment?

Hi…and I appreciate your being available for these kinds of questions. otherwise, I would not know how to proceed.

So the situation is that I was hired as a contract employee, full time, to support a project abroad. in returning to states after the contract was cut short not due to cause, but because boss said it was …, I had my salary cut 20, and the company put me on what they call ‘part time variable status’ PTV, which means they put me in a holding pattern to satisfy their needs, should something appear. Benefits cut, salary cut, second class citizen.

my question and supposition is that sure seems to me like a way to avoid paying unemployment and severance pay, not to mention there seems to be a case for constructive dismissal. ‘….put me in a spot where I cant afford to stay, thus effectively telling me I don’t have a job.’

Additionally, two other members in my arena have been treated commensurately. First one had all his programs swept from him, given to another, and has been left with not responsibilities, no work, no anything…the clear message is ‘move on’.

The other has had similar actions taken against him. We three are somewhat in a bad position.

I will further iterate that this company does this routinely…there are a bunch of people that have served this company with distinction for years, only to return to states and put on PTV…

I would appreciate your opinion on such a matter….is there class action case grounds?

Dr Huey P Allen Jr
Fredericksburg, VA

Asked on December 7, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

1) There is no obligation to pay employees severance ever, not unless they had a written employment contract guarantying them severance. (Severance is not required by the law generally; only by contract.) Therefore, there  is no need to put someone on part-time or contractor status to avoid paying severance, and  also no legal claim against the employer for not paying it.
2) There is no obligation to provide benefits to employees, and so again, no legal claim for not being given them.
3) A 20% pay cut is not enough to be considered "constructive termination"--employers have the right to cut employee pay (and/or hours), and it's typically not until you get to a 1/3 or 40% or higher cut that it is considered constructive termination.
Unfortunately, what you describe is typical of modern employment.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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