Additional Information: Back in August, my position as an Inside Sales rep for a Framingham MA company was eliminated. I was moved over to the marketing department. I was never given a new title and did not sign any paperwork. I was told that I would not be receiving commissions anymore but that my new salary would compensate for the loss in commissions. I do not have this in writing however. Fast forward to today: I still have not received a new title, although I am supporting all the of senior management. I am paid out of the marketing payroll. My salary is what my base salary was when I was doing inside sales. My workplace is using me I feel. I am doing things that are required of top paid executives, but I am making less than I was. What are my rights and can I collect unemployment if I quit due to these circumstances? (i.e. reduced pay) Thanks.
As you may already know, Massachusetts follows the at will employment rule, which generally provides that both employers and employees are free to either maintain or end a working relationship at any time, for any reason. The application of this principle of law to your circmustance may leave you with few options and certainly dictates that you tread carefully in making decisions about your future with this company.
An understanding of the problem here frequently eludes lay people, even those well versed in at will principles, but becomes clear once the rule is extrapolated properly. Since either party to an employment relationship can end it at any time, either can also change that relationship, subject, of course, to acceptance by the other. This frequently occurs in the manner you experienced. When an employer comes to its worker and says, in sum, ‘your duties, title and pay rate are changing,’ it in legal effect is declaring the old employment relationship to be over and simultaneously offering to enter a new one on new terms. Employees are not required to accept the new terms and can instead treat the action as a job termination, then properly seek unemployment benefits. If a worker does take the new role, however, he/she enters a new arrangement that is subject to the same at will rule as the prior job was.
This appears to be what occurred with you. Had you declined the new job when it was offered (or imposed, as it were), you might have collected unemployment benefits under a theory that you were fired from your job when your position was eliminated. If you leave now, however, the unemployment office may conclude that you quit, thus disqualifying you from benefits and forcing you to prove that you were effectively discharged by your employer’s failure to honor its agreement. Though this task might not be impossible, it will likely be difficult. You may thus be better served by first approaching your employer about your pay rate and, if you cannot resolve the issue, locating a new job before you leave the old one.
Attorney Jack Merrill is a Framingham, MA employment lawyer providing legal services to employees, employers and businesses throughout the Boston metro west and Worcester County region including Ashland, Dedham, Framingham, Franklin, Hopkinton, Maynard, Marlborough, Milford, Natick, Needham, Newton, Shrewsbury, Sudbury, Waltham, and Worcester, Massachusetts.