Watch CBS News

My boss is saying I resigned when I didn't

(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,

I have worked for my company for two years, and in my current position for a little over a year now. My boss is very nosy and always wants to know what is going on in everyone's life. She gets upset if she feels like she's not being told what she wants. I told her that my long-distance boyfriend has been looking to buy a house and that the lease on my apartment was up October 31. Yesterday she called me into her office and told me about the plan to hire someone overseas, and then she said she thinks the best date for my last day is November 1. I was surprised. I told her i didn't give notice to her when I told her about my relationship development.

She said that from what I had said about my boyfriend and my lease she took that as meaning that I was leaving in mid-November and that she was owed notice, so she was scheduling my last day for November 1. I should note that most people in this company quit by simply walking out because the company treats people horribly. So she wants to say I resigned, but she also wants me to work the month of October and train the overseas team as well. I said I deserved a bonus for doing the training, and she said no, it's part of my job. (It's not in my job description! I even asked for a copy of my job description and HR wouldn't give it to me.)

I did not resign. I never told her I was leaving. I think I'm owed severance and a bonus for training my replacement. What can I do?

First, let's talk about what the requirements are and then let's talk about realities. There are no laws that require severance for a single employee termination. (There are some cases, involving employees with contracts or entire site shutdowns that do require severance, but none of these apply here.) Many companies do offer severance -- and I strongly encourage companies to have generous severance policies -- but many do not.

The only way you could be "owed" severance is if your company has a policy of paying out severance for position eliminations, which is what is happening here, since your work will be done by an overseas group. Then you could argue that you need to be treated the same as everyone else.

Second, let's talk bonuses and job descriptions. Again, unless you're covered under a union contract, your job description is completely flexible and based on the whims of your boss. Your boss can decide that from now on, you have to clean the toilets and pick up lunch for the entire office, as well as training the new people. Now, if you're paid by the hour (known as non-exempt), you have to be paid for the extra time it takes to train the new people. If you're an exempt employee, she doesn't even have to pay you extra even if it doubles the amount of time you spend at the office. There is something known as a "stay on" bonus that is sometimes used in these types of situations, but again it isn't not required by law and I doubt your boss has any interest in getting you one.

So you're owed neither severance nor a bonus. I'd drop the bonus thing altogether, but pursue the severance, and more importantly sort out your official termination reason. Your direct boss wants to code this as a resignation, that much is clear. Why does that matter? Well, for one, if you resigned you're not eligible for unemployment. Companies pay into unemployment and their rate is based on how many of their employees show up at the unemployment office. She may well just want to keep her rates low. But it's also possible that she doesn't care about that at all (it's probably not her budget item), and what she really wants is to be in control.

So where do you need to go? HR. Go in with the assumption that you've been laid off. Do your initial contact via email (with your home email address cc'd) so you have a record and there's no misunderstanding. Write something like this:

Jane told me that my last day would be November 1 due to my position being transferred overseas. I have not received any paperwork regarding 1. Severance; 2. Continuing benefits (COBRA); 3. Official termination reason; 4. Future references; 5. Unemployment; and 6. Final pay including unused vacation. Can I set up a time to meet with you to receive this paperwork so I can have ample time to discuss it with my attorney prior to November 1?

This will force them to either treat you as a layoff or state straight out that you resigned, at which point you can fight that. Your boss has nothing in writing saying you resigned, and it will come down to your word versus hers. Even if at the end of the day the company maintains that you resigned, you'll have all sorts of documentation saying you didn't (because you will document all of this) for when you apply for unemployment.

Talk with HR. Start looking for a new job. Document the heck out of everything. Train the people overseas. Don't give them any reason to mark you ineligible for rehire or give you a bad reference.

Have a workplace dilemma? Send you questions to

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.