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Guy got laid off due to COVID-19, then boss wanted to hire him back for less money

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So many people are losing their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And unfortunately, it's become clear that some companies are doing everything they can to take advantage of their employees and the situation. This story is frustrating, but even more frustratingly, it doesn't seem all that uncommon these days. 

OP wrote this in the "Legal Advice" subreddit, hoping that someone had some answers for them about any legal recourse. They explain that they were a "salaried estimator / project manager / IT specialist for a concrete company."  

Because a lot of their job was on the go and interacting with other people, they got laid off a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps importantly, this happened in the state of Tennessee. 

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They filed for unemployment immediately, and the state approved it. They were notified that the state was sending their unemployment application to the former employer for verification, per usual. Then, less than a week later, their boss called and said he "needed" them back to do some project management work for him.  

It would be less than 10 hours a week. They explain, "He was going to have me do estimates on a commission basis in the meantime (previously part of my salaried work).  

"Now, because I have to drive anywhere between 45 minutes to four hours to get to a job or estimate site, and my drive time is unpaid, this means that I will be spending almost all of my time working for almost nothing, and half the job I was previously paid for will now only pay if I make a sale." 

Yeah, that's not OK. Clearly, their boss is trying to wring out whatever he can from this — may I remind you — former employee without having to go back to paying their salary.  

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And OP wasn't falling for it. "I told him that his offer was bulls--t," they wrote. "I never signed any paperwork changing my job duties and he'd literally just laid me off, and he told me that he had work for me and hadn't done the unemployment paperwork, and he 'wasn't going to let me just sit back and collect unemployment and not work.'" 

The former boss threatened to contest the unemployment claim and said it would be easy since the lay off happened over the phone and no official paperwork had exchanged hands yet. Is this horrible or is this horrible?  

First of all, what does their boss care if OP collects unemployment?! He laid them off so he doesn't have to pay them anymore. Let your former employee collect money from the state while we're all dealing with a pandemic instead of making them go out in public and work for a measly amount of money.  

OP wrote, "If I agree to this I'm basically going to be working a 40-50 hour week for $200, where I was previously making $1,300." It's insulting. And they want to use this time to clean up their resume and maybe even take a class so they can find a better job when this is all over. 

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Considering they haven't gotten the official paperwork about being laid off yet, they don't know what, if any, recourse they have in this situation. It's a little sticky because all of this happened over the phone, which OP knows was a mistake.  

But they never believed their boss would do anything like this. One commenter wrote that since everything happened over the phone, the boss also has no proof that he shouldn't be paying OP's salary right now. "He owes you a couple thousand bucks," one person wrote.  

If OP can't confirm the layoff, neither can his boss. A more official route would be to report this to the state labor board. One person wrote, "First, he is changing your work description, duties, and pay. You have a legal right to not accept that.  

"You also have a right to apply for UI benefits to compensate for the lost wages between what you were earning and the BS wage he is trying to pay you now. You do NOT have to accept 'commission' anything if it was not part of your previous job description and it will not automatically make you ineligible for UI benefits."  

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Source: iStock

It was suggested that the original poster contact an attorney as well. Even if everything happened over the phone, there is still legal recourse. If their boss stopped paying them a few weeks ago when they were laid off, there would be no paycheck in their bank account.  

Even without the official paperwork, that says something. Their boss can't just lay employees off and then decide to unlay them off and force them to work for extremely reduced pay. It doesn't work like that. 

The only update OP posted is that they're going to contact a lawyer immediately. I know this boss thought they could take advantage of them by threatening to deny their unemployment claim, and I really hope he gets what's coming to him.