Q: Can my employer say I resigned due to a change in my availability?
My availability recently changed from working 31 hours a week to now I am only able to work Saturdays while I agreed to care for my niece at home during the week. I am not her primary caretaking. My employer recently asked if we would have any restrictions to our schedules when we reopened after the COVID-19 shutdown. I told her I could only work Saturdays. She has now replied that she needs to find someone else who can work the same schedule I worked before and told me she is accepting my resignation. She then reiterated that because I was not able to work the same hours as before, I was resigning as she could not accept my new schedule. I told her I did not resign nor did I plan to. Can she say I am resigning because she doesn’t accept my schedule change?
A: The real question is whether your employer had an obligation to continue your employment for Saturdays only and, if not and she decides to employ someone else, whether you have any rights as a result of her ending of the employment.
If you are an employee at will, which you probably are, your employer can end your employment at any time, and so can you. That also means that your employer can change the terms of your employment anytime it wants and you can change the terms that you are willing to work.
If one party or the other to an agreement decides to change at-will terms, the other side can decide whether they too wants continue working under the changed conditions.
In your case, you proposed changing your schedule to one day a week. Your employer said no. Therefore, you did not have a new employment agreement. Instead, your employer proposed keeping the terms the same, but you could not agree due to your commitment to your niece. Because you and your employer could not agree on employment terms going forward, your employment ended.
Coming back to whether this was a resignation or termination question, legally speaking the issue is which party decided not to continue with the arrangement the way it was. In this case it was you, since your circumstances changed. Therefore, your employer did not have an obligation to continue your employment as you proposed.
It is not entirely clear whether you are eligible for unemployment compensation benefits, but I believe for the same reason that your decision not to return to the old schedule may disqualify you from benefits. Nonetheless, apply to find out for sure.
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