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I was laid off. Now that my employer is hiring, do I get my job back?

  • Author: Lynne Curry
    | Alaska Workplace
  • Updated: October 5
  • Published October 5

Q: My employer laid me off due to COVID-19 in April. The job scene is a disaster. I get up every morning searching job postings. I’ve had some initial interviews, but no call backs and no offers.

When I opened this morning, I learned my former employer had posted my former job. They’re now hiring the job I did, for which they laid me off, but didn’t let me know, much less call me in for an interview. Don’t they have to? I was laid off, not fired.

Does the fact that they didn’t call me mean they won’t hire me if I apply?

A: You can and should apply, particularly if you left on good terms. Quite possibly you will be interviewed and hired.

Don’t read too much into the fact that your former employer didn’t reach out to you. The individual who posted the job may not have cross-matched the vacancies with laid off employees.

There’s no guarantee you’ll get your job back, however, even if your former employer is hiring for your former position. Your employer isn’t required to hire you unless they’ve provided you a written agreement promising you’d be rehired. According to Corey Daspit, founder of the Human Resources firm APEX HRO, “Being laid off means the employer did not have enough work available and could not justify the cost of keeping underutilized labor on payroll. Furthermore, it’s possible the position requirements may have changed as a result of restructuring and so while you may have been qualified for the position before, you may not be qualified for the newly restructured position.”

If you had good performance, however, and the job remains virtually the same, you’ll be a top candidate, as you offer your former employer an employee who can hit the ground running.

Here’s what to do now. If you received a layoff notice, check whether it says anything about being rehired. If you have a copy of your former employee handbook, look in the section on layoffs to see if there’s any information about laid off workers being rehired. Call your former employer’s HR officer and ask them about rehire policies and practices. Call your former supervisor and let him know you’re interested in returning. He may favor your immediate rehire, and if so, your chances are excellent.

Q: After I spent a weekend bar hopping, I felt remorseful and self-quarantined so I wouldn’t bring COVID into my workplace and make others ill. I also took a COVID test and luckily tested negative.

Since my employer had moved everyone back on-site, I couldn’t work remotely and labeled my time off as sick leave. I just got my paycheck and apparently my employer has denied my sick leave. What’s my recourse?

A: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act allows most private sector employees up to 80 hours of paid sick leave in five instances: A health care provider advises the employee to self-quarantine; the employee is seeking a diagnosis for COVID-19 symptoms; the employee or someone the employee is caring for is under a government quarantine or stay-at-home order; the employee is caring for a child whose school, child care provider or place of care is unavailable due to COVID-19.

None of these instances exactly fits your circumstances, even though you sought testing for COVID-19, unless you had symptoms. That said, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently entered several settlements to resolve FFCRA self-quarantine cases. In one of these, seven employees of a Smoothie King franchise requested emergency paid sick leave while some sought medical diagnosis for suspected coronavirus infection.

At the same time, notes Daspit, “Given the extreme communicability of COVID-19, everyone needs to avoid situations that could put them at risk for catching the virus. That said, if you believe you’ve exposed yourself, it’s good that you did the right thing and didn’t return to the workplace until you felt certain you wouldn’t sicken anyone else. Should your employer grant you paid sick leave when your exposure was your personal choice? That’s debatable.”

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