What the Law Says About Recalling Workers from Furlough
In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, approximately 20% of workers in the United States were laid off or furloughed—but most of these workers said their employer planned to hire them back.
Now that states are reopening, many employers are calling their workers back from furlough. But what rules govern who gets called back, and when? How do you know if your employer is discriminating when deciding who gets called back first?
There are no state or federal laws that govern how companies recall employees from furlough. However, employers do have to follow some rules, or they may be vulnerable to a lawsuit.
Some of the rules include:
- Your employer can’t discriminate.
Existing anti-discrimination laws have to be followed when choosing who to call back from furlough. For example, your employer can’t decide to bring back only the younger workers or keep disabled workers on furlough longer than the rest of the workforce.
- Collective bargaining agreements must be followed.
Most if not all collective bargaining agreements contain provisions that address layoff-and-recall situations. Often, employees are called back based on seniority.
- Established practices should be followed.
Even if your employer doesn’t have a collective bargaining agreement, it may have policies laid down in its employee handbook, or it may have simply made a written or verbal commitment when communicating about the original layoff.
Unlike with a collective bargaining agreement, these statements are generally not considered legally binding. But if the employer doesn’t follow them and doesn’t have a good explanation as to why, it could leave it vulnerable to lawsuits if its furlough policy is perceived to be unfair.
- Your employer should keep you informed.
Your employer should have an established policy about who they’re calling back, when, and why. This may be based on seniority, specific skillsets, or which workers are needed to get basic operations up before the rest of the workforce can be recalled.
They should communicate that policy with you and be transparent about when and how they’re calling people back.
Not sure about your recall rights? Ask a Pennsylvania employment lawyer.
The laws and regulations applicable to layoff-and-recall situations aren’t easy to parse through, as there’s no federal law governing how employers recall employees from furlough. However, it’s very clear that employers must be transparent, follow any contractual obligations, and avoid discriminatory practices.
If you think you’re being unfairly left out of your employer’s recall policy, we can help.
The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.