Can an employer have you sign a waiver regarding your right to collect unemployment?

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Can an employer have you sign a waiver regarding your right to collect unemployment?

My employer put me on a written for no valid reason; it had something to do with another employee. They wanted me to sign away my unemployment rights if I was terminated in the future. Is t?at legal, I did not sign away my rights, then about 3 months later I was terminated because my full -time position was reduced to part-time. Others were offered to keep part-time hours; I was not.

Asked on July 27, 2011 New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I do not believe that a company *can* make you give up unemployment rights, since unemployment is NOT something provided by the company; they may pay an assessment to the government on their payroll, but it's the government that provides unemployment insurance. As such, the company would seem to have no more right to prevent you from getting unemployment than they could prevent you from collecting SSI or social security. If you were terminated, rather than resigned, you should be able to collect unemployment--even if you had signed the agreement--and you should certainly apply for it.

If you did not have an employment contract, you were an employee at will. That means the company may put on warning or notice, discipline you, fire you, etc. at any time, for any reason, and does *not* have to treat you the same as other employees, with the exception that they may not discriminate against you on the basis of  protected category (e.g. race, sex, religion, age over 40, disability) and may not retaliate against you for filing a protected claim, such as an overtime or harassment claim. It's not clear whether or not they could retaliate against you for your unwillingnesss to "sign away" your unemployment rights; however, it is worth consulting with an employment attorney and discussing that matter in depth--if the company is considered to have illegally retaliated against you, you may then have a wrongful termination claim.


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