fired, resigned, or let go?

A reader writes:

I am not sure if I was fired or let go. “My services were no longer needed.” After 8 years, they decided to add to my position the duties of company driving in my own vehicle. I was not hired needing a car. I told them I would be glad to fulfill the new duties if they provided a car since mine had high mileage and was unreliable. They told me I had no choice.

I also checked into my insurance and my premiums would have gone up by a third, causing me hardship. They offered what the government gives for mileage and no more.

They asked me if I would change my mind, and I didn’t, so they let me go. They did give me two weeks severance pay. Then the HR manager told the board that I quit. I was never written up in the 8 years I was employed and my last pay review was “exceeds expectations.”

How to I explain to future employers when they ask me if I was fired?

You weren’t fired. And despite what the HR manager is saying, at no point did you quit either. And they’re well aware of this, as your severance pay shows — companies don’t give severance to employees who quit.

Let’s get clear on our definitions: Fired means you were terminated for cause. Laid-off means that your position was eliminated. Let go can mean either of the two. Resigned means that you voluntarily chose to leave your job.

In your case, they changed the essential duties of your job. I suppose they could try to argue that you effectively quit when you refused to agree to their new terms, but this would be BS, since their terms were significantly different than previously and would have been to your detriment. I think what they did was closest to a layoff. (And you should be entitled to unemployment compensation and so forth — but you won’t get it if they say you quit, so don’t buy into their wording.)

I know there’s a legal term for what they did and it’s escaping me. Anyone?

{ 7 comments… read them below }

  1. Jeff Gordon*

    What they did is called “constructive termination”. In other words, they made the situation untenable for the employee to stay.

  2. Anonymous*

    They are trying to get out of paying you unemployment. I would consult with somebody who has legal expertise on this, so you don’t get doubly shafted. File for unemployment, but expect a battle. Hopefully, that won’t happen, you have a case, but your the burden of proof will be on you if they initially deny the claim (unemployment benefits are under siege right now in this economy, and I bet they are even going to be even more restrictive in their criteria). Good luck!

  3. Rogue Pyro*

    I’ve always known it as “Constructive Dismissal” It is (in the UK at least) illegal to change the terms of a job in order to get someone to leave the company.

  4. Just another HR lady...*

    In Canada it’s also constructive dismissal. You change the terms or conditions of employment forcing the employee to resign. The responsibility for the loss of employment is on the employer.

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