I’ve been furloughed – can my company stop me from taking side work?

By | July 26, 2020

I was furloughed in May through June and then again through Aug. 31. I am under a strict and wide-ranging non-compete. I asked if I could consult as a way to make money during the furlough, and I was told no. The firm is paying for my family’s health care and that is it. Is this legal?

Furloughs are different from layoffs, and so are your rights and an employer’s. It’s certainly understandable and legal for an employer to restrict furloughed employees from working for a competitor because you are still an employee and receiving benefits. As for non-competitive consulting work, given your employment contract, you should seek the advice of an attorney. Many people have side hustles even during normal times, provided it isn’t a violation of their primary employer’s policies. To expect an employee to be furloughed for four months without any pay and without the ability to generate any replacement income is difficult to understand and to enforce.

I know that the state’s workers handling unemployment claims are incredibly taxed, but so am I. I am completely out of money, unable to pay rent, and my credit has been hit. I was laid off the last Thursday of April, and I filed my claim that day. The automated system now says I don’t have an active claim on file. But online it still says pending. How can I get help?

I am so sorry to hear this, and I know it doesn’t help to say it, but you are not alone. Our systems and the staff are just not equipped to handle the volume of applications. And if there is anything slightly unusual about your claim, or if there is even one piece of information missing or incorrect, then that will only make matters worse. You might try re-applying — there isn’t the same crush of applications now as there was in April — and explain to a new case worker what happened so that you receive the back benefits that you are entitled to. You should also try contacting your former employer if possible. Many employers are helping laid-off staff with transition services. Remain persistent and, at the same time, focus on finding a new job.

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Gregory Giangrande has over 25 years of experience as a chief human resources executive. E-mail your questions to GoToGreg@NYPost.com. Follow Greg on Twitter: @greggiangrande and at GoToGreg.com, dedicated to helping New Yorkers get back to work.

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