Have you recently been furloughed?
What now? What does “furlough” even mean? How will you get money? Will you still keep your health and life insurance?
In this article, you will learn about furlough employee rights in California.
What is a Furlough?
A furlough is a mandated unpaid leave of absence of employees from work during tough economic times. Employers are typically forced to furlough employees to reduce further financial stress to their business. Furlough follows a No Work Rule for exempt employees; that is, employees are not allowed to work on behalf of their employer whatsoever, not even for 5 minutes.
Employees cannot take phone calls or reply to emails on behalf of the employer until they are asked to do so. If an employer asks for any work from the employee while the employee is on furlough, the employer must pay the employee equivalent of his/her weekly salary.
Some furloughs may mean cutting non-exempt employees’ hours/days to part-time or to a minimum. On the other hand, you may be asked to take off a couple of days/week unpaid if you’re an hourly employee, or one week/month off if you’re a salaried employee.
Employees may receive health and life insurance benefits while being furloughed; some of them are getting partially paid. By maintaining these types of benefits, this is one way for employees to know that their company is serious about keeping them and resuming regular hours once it’s financially realistic to do so. On the other hand, some benefits, like an employer matching 401k contribution, will be nonexistent, because, without a paycheck, there are no contributions for the employer to match. In some companies, vacation pays are also given to employees.
Additionally, furloughed employees have a right to seek new employment, which is the most significant threat to businesses, as they are at risk of losing their best employees. Furloughed and laid-off employees qualify for unemployment insurance.
Should You Look for Another Job While You are Furloughed?
Yes, you should look for another job if you have no other options. You have to consider the possibility that your company will go bankrupt and will be unable to return to normal operations. While this is the worst-case scenario, it’s a possibility given today’s shaky financial times.
If you love your job and are loyal to your company, and you are confident that the furlough will be short-lived, then you can look for a temporary or contract position. That way, when your company reopens, you will be available to return to work.