California Employee Rights After Coronavirus Layoffs

As these confusing and difficult times continue, many employees are left scrambling after being laid off. Even small companies that have received stimulus support from the federal government are sometimes needing to find ways to cut costs or close their doors altogether. For employees who have been laid off, either individually or as part of a larger group of workers, many have unanswered questions regarding their rights now that they have been laid off work.

What is Owed to a Laid Off Employee?

At the time of separation between an employee and an employer, California law dictates you are entitled to your final paycheck at the time you are laid off. Any delay in payment of your final paycheck results in waiting time penalties that are owed to you by the employer for failure to render a timely paycheck. Pay close attention to when you receive that paycheck compared to when you were laid off to ensure you are not letting fair penalty payments go unclaimed.

But ultimately, many laid-off employees are left wondering if they received all that was owed to them on their final paychecks. The wages you earn for hours worked are not the only thing you will probably see on a final paycheck, after all. Your final paycheck must include any accrued vacation time or paid time off, as these are considered wages owed to you.

Are you entitled to any severance pay, though? Severance pay often comes up in entertainment media after a character gets laid off but is that realistic? Unfortunately, not exactly. Generally, employers will only be required to pay severance pay where they are contractually obligated to do so. Many employment contracts make no mention of severance pay, especially for any employee who is not full-time nor in a salaried position.

Lastly, all employees should be aware that an employer may not use massive layoffs as a pretext to terminate you for discriminatory reasons. Regardless of layoffs, an employer may not intentionally terminate your employment based on a protected characteristic, such as your age, gender, sex, sexual orientation, or disability, among other characteristics. There is a long list of protected characteristics in California, all of which cannot be subjected to any type of employment discrimination. If you have suspected that your employer dislikes you due to a protected characteristic, and then you are laid off because of business shortages caused by the coronavirus, it might be worth taking a closer look into the matter to see if anything speaks of concealed discrimination. Furthermore, even if your employer uses a truly neutral policy to determine layoffs, it may still be illegal if it disproportionately affects a specific class of people.

Do you need help understanding and using your rights as an employee who was recently laid off in Rancho Cucamonga or the surrounding area? Chung & Ignacio, LLP is here to assist you. We offer free initial consultations to inquiring clients. Just call (909) 726-7112 to schedule yours.