What’s the Difference Between Furloughs and Layoffs?

Furloughs Layoffs

Some words, such as coronavirus and COVID-19, are synonymous. They mean the same thing.

Other words, like furlough and layoffs, do not exactly mean the same thing. Both the l-word and the f-word mean the employee is not working. But there are some significant differences, mostly in terms of employee rights.

In normal times, employers often furlough workers for disciplinary reasons.

The furlough, which is a suspension without pay, usually lasts a specific time.

Generally, employers temporarily revoke security clearances, passwords, and other work-related permissions.

The employee is not allowed on company property and may not access any proprietary or other software. Furthermore, if furloughed employees do any work, employers are legally required to pay them.

If your employer furloughed you instead of laying you off, you still have some important rights.

For example:

  • There is an expectation that, once the suspension period ends, the worker can resume employment under the same terms and conditions.
  • Furloughed employees retain their benefits, such as health insurance, during their suspensions.
  • Antidiscrimination and other labor laws still apply to furloughed employees while they are suspended and when they return to work.
  • In most states, furloughed employees are eligible for unemployment benefits. They are also able to look for alternative employment. However, there could be legal problems if furloughed workers refuse to return to their prior positions after the suspensions end.

Unlike furlough, Layoffs on the other hand, are open-ended work terminations.

Employers might or might not recall laid off employees once conditions change. That’s completely within their discretion.

Furthermore, in layoffs, all benefits and other financial obligations cease.

Deferral vs. Forgiveness

Some banks have voluntarily agreed to mortgage deferrals during the coronavirus crisis, and some states have ordered such relief. Tenants might have similar relief soon.

Program specifications vary.

For example, sometimes the payment relief includes late fee/penalty waivers, and sometimes it does not.

Generally, however, there is a big difference between a deferral, which is sometimes called a forbearance, and forgiveness.

Assume Mike’s boss furloughed him in mid-March and he returns to work in mid-June.

He is unable to pay his mortgage on April 1, May 1, and June 1.

Even if Mike benefits from a mandatory or voluntary coronavirus deferral, he must still pay for those three months.

In this context, a deferral simply means the bank will not initiate foreclosure proceedings during the grace period.

But when July 1 arrives, the lender will expect four installment payments, and the bank will probably not be too patient.

Crash vs. Accident

Many people use these words interchangeably to describe vehicle collisions.

But just like there is a big difference between a furlough and a layoff or a deferral and a forgiveness, there is a big difference between a crash and an accident.

Accident often means an inevitable and unavoidable event.

People accidentally drop coffee cups and dinner dishes. In the personal injury context, the a-word first entered the language in the early twentieth century.

Factory muckety-mucks called workplace injuries “industrial accidents” to shift focus away from their dangerous facilities and onto the injured workers.

Crash, on the other hand, implies fault. Indeed, most vehicle collisions involve fault determinations.

Insurance companies determine fault all the time.

Some governments, including the City of New York, have policies which dictate that, in most cases, these incidents are crashes instead of accidents.

Fault vs. Liability

Finally, there is often a difference between fault for the accident and liability for damages. A dog bite injury is a good example, albeit a complex one.

Assume Bam-Bamm is playing at Pebbles’ house. While he is there, Dino suddenly and deliberately attacks poor Bam-Bamm. In the minds of most people, Fred and Wilma were at fault because they failed to control their vicious monster.

However, if Fred recently put up a “Beware of Dog” sign, the Flintsones might not be liable (legally responsible) for damages. A legal doctrine called assumption of the risk sometimes comes into play.

There’s more. This defense only applies if Bam-Bamm saw the sign, could read the sign, and comprehended its meaning. Depending on how old Bam-Bamm was, the sign’s design, and some other factors, the defense might be hard to prove in court.

At Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, we are open for business during the coronavirus outbreak. We consult with clients, both existing and potential ones, while keeping your privacy, and your safety, in mind. Most importantly, we diligently work on your case. If you need legal help, call us for a free consultation.