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My job is being eliminated as of 7/2 but the company is paying us until 8/18. Can they make us work in other departments?

Beltsville, MD |

My company is laying off 950 emp and transitioning those jobs to an outsource company. My job will end on 7/2 but I will be paid until 8/18. Originally they told us once our job transitioned we would be released now they are saying that we will be forced to working in other positions until the 18th. Many of these obs will be entry level and very demeaning, Can they force us to work these jobs and threaten our severance in the process.

Attorney Answers 1


I am a California attorney and cannot give legal advice in your state. My comments are information only, based on federal law and general legal principles. YOUR STATE MAY HAVE ITS OWN LAWS THAT OFFER SIMILAR OR GREATER PROTECTION. If I mention your state’s laws, it only means I did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant. You MUST check with an attorney licensed in your state to learn your rights.

Any response to this situation will turn on specific facts. The Avvo board is not set up to handle the kind of detailed analysis needed to offer helpful guidance. Avvo works best for short, specific questions that allow for short, specific answers. Perhaps more importantly, anyone can read the discussions on Avvo so they are not confidential. The employer or whomever is involved in the dispute can read everything written here.

The facts implicate the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2101 et seq. (WARN or WARN Act). This law requires some employers to give certain workers 60 days advance notice if they will lose their jobs due to company or department closure, or mass layoffs. This is to provide the employees with time to seek other employment or retraining. Sometimes, an employer provides this notice even when it has not yet decided there will be a layoff. This is because the employer wants to make sure it complies with the WARN Act; otherwise, it faces steep penalties.

At times, large layoffs or plant closing do not comply with the law. The first workers’ rights law organization to help employees in this situation was the Sugar Law Center, an affiliate of the National Lawyers Guild. The Sugar Law Center provides quality information and selected representation to employees facing a mass layoff or plant closing. You can contact the Sugar Law Center at:

The U.S. Department of Labor has a Guide for Workers on the WARN Act. The Guide and contact information for Department of Labor officials are available at Another good summary is here:

Unless your employer's decision violates the WARN Act, it can probably change your job duties for the remainder of your employment. The harsh reality is employees and job applicants have very few employment rights, and employers have a lot of leeway in how they choose to run their businesses. In general, an employer can be unfair, obnoxious or bad at management. There are some limitations, mostly in the areas of public policy (such as discrimination law), contract law, union-employer labor relations, and constitutional due process. Please look at my Avvo guide to at-will employment which may help you understand employment rights:

After you take a look at the guide I linked to above, you may be able to identify actions or behavior that fits one of the categories that allows for legal action. If so, an experienced plaintiffs employment attorney may be helpful.

You can find a plaintiffs employment attorney on the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA) web site NELA is the largest and most influential bar association in the country for attorneys representing working people. You can search by location and practice area. Also, NELA has affiliates in every state and many cities which are listed on the NELA site. Not all NELA attorneys are named on the web site or affiliate site. This should not influence your selection; attorneys can choose whether or not to purchase a listing in the national directory, and each affiliate has its own rules for listing.

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*** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***

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Marilynn Mika Spencer

Marilynn Mika Spencer


(continued from Answer above) It’s not a level playing field. Employment rights come from the state and federal legislatures. One of the best things working people can do to improve their employment rights is to vote for candidates who have a good record on pro-employee, anti-corporate legislation. Another way to protect employment rights is to form or affiliate with a union, or participate in the union already in place. Don't expect an employer to take care of its employees. The employer hires employees to provide work for its benefit, not for anyone else’s benefit.

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