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Is There a Difference Between a Furlough and a Layoff?

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Losing a job or getting your work hours reduced can be difficult. Sometimes employers are not able to retain employees for various reasons. In that case, employers will either reduce an employee’s work hours or let them go completely.

If you’ve been in this situation, you may have heard of the terms furlough or layoff. Understandably, these terms can be confusing to understand.

How are they similar? How are they different? Do furlough or laid-off employees qualify for unemployment? Below are things you should know if you work in California:


Definition of Furloughs

A furlough is a temporary unpaid leave of absence. Furloughed employees retain their job, but stop working for their employer for a certain period of time. Furloughs are used when an employer isn’t financially able to keep employees hired at their normal work hours or if there isn’t enough work for all employees.

For example:

During a pandemic, a local government agency may furlough all employees by reducing the number of hours employees work each week. By implementing this cost-saving measure, the employer can avoid terminating or laying off employees.

Before the start of a furlough period, employees should be informed through written communication. An employee must be paid for any work performed.

Federal law requires employers to pay an exempt employee their full weekly salary for any work performed that week. Because the employer failed to provide work, the employee must be paid their full weekly salary even if he or she didn’t work a full week. Exempt employees who perform no work during a certain week may have their weekly salary reduced.

Employees who have been furloughed in California are eligible for unemployment.


Definition of Layoffs

Layoffs, on the other hand, is when an employee is laid-off without a specific date of return. A layoff is usually considered a separation of employment due to certain circumstances within an organization.

The term “layoff” generally describes termination where the employee isn’t at fault. An employer may hope or have reason to rehire laid-off workers at some point in the future.

For example:

A restaurant owner may temporarily lay off employees during a pandemic because he or she can’t afford to keep the employees on the payroll. But if the economy recovers or if the employer is financially able, the employer may choose to rehire the previously laid-off employees. Layoffs can be temporary or permanent.

Employers must pay an employee for any wages earned up to (and including) the layoff date.

California employees that have been laid-off employees are eligible for unemployment


California Unemployment Benefits 

In California, unemployment benefits are administered by the Employment Development Department (EDD). Workers are eligible for unemployment benefits when they have been furloughed, laid-off, or had their work hours reduced.


Consult with our Employment Attorney Today

If your employer did not properly compensate you for all your hours worked, you may be able to file a claim against them. Furloughed or laid-off employees have rights and an experienced lawyer can help you understand them. We are confident that our experienced attorneys can obtain the maximum compensation for your case and offer a “no win, no fee” guarantee. Contact Mesriani Law Group today for your free legal consultation and let us help you get the justice you deserve.

About the Author
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Rodney Mesriani

Rodney Mesriani is the principal partner of the Los Angeles and Santa Monica based Mesriani Law Group. He specializes in personal injury and employment law while also being an accomplished litigator and trial attorney. Rodney is an aggressive negotiator and a well-known and respected attorney in the areas of practice he specializes in.

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from California State University Northridge before attending Southwestern School of Law where he received his Juris Doctorate. While being an accomplished personal injury and employment lawyer, Rodney Mesriani has made it a point to attend numerous State Sponsored MCLE events and seminars over the years as a law practitioner to be informed of the latest laws and litigation strategies.



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