Is a company’s “general practice” legal when the practice was not written in a severance package?

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Is a company’s “general practice” legal when the practice was not written in a severance package?

I was laid off from an educational institution as a full-time employee. I also taught for the company part time. I signed a severance agreement that did not state I could no longer teach for the company; however, I am being told that it is general practice. Once you leave the university as a full-time employee, you are not re-hirable, nor may you teach. In the university’s employee handbook, it states if you left the company in good standing, you are re-hirable. No where does it state I can no longer teach if laid off.

Asked on February 1, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If you did not sign any agreement which contractually made you unable to work at this employer, you *may* be re-hired by them.

However, that does *not* require them to rehire you--you have no ability to force them to re-hire you, or to employ you in any capacity. Employers make their own decisions on who to employ. Therefore, you would only be re-hired or employed if the company chooses to re-hire or employ you. This in turn means that if they have made the decision to not employ you, that decision may as well be in a contract--you would not be re-hired unless and until they change their mind. (And, for that matter, even if the severance agreement had contained a term barring you from employment, that term could be modified by the mutual consent of the parties--again, it comes down to whether they want to employ you or not.)


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