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COVID-19 Hot Topics: What is a furlough?

Marriott has made headlines lately for furloughing tens of thousands of workers due to the coronavirus pandemic.  But what is a furlough?

What is a furlough?

In short, a furlough is an unpaid suspension.  Frequently, we think of a suspension as a punishment.  However, a furlough isn’t disciplinary and has nothing to do with your conduct or performance.  Instead, the employer needs to suspend employees for a business reason.

A furlough is different from a layoff or a reduction-in-force (RIF).  A layoff or a RIF ends your employment.  During a furlough, you, technically, still have a job.  You won’t be paid, but you expect to return to work whenever the furlough ends.

Will I keep my benefits?

Your employer’s policies and benefit plans will determine whether you keep health care coverage and other employment benefits during a furlough.  For example, benefit plans generally require you to work a certain number of hours to remain eligible.  Depending on that requirement and the duration of the furlough, you might lose eligibility because you haven’t worked enough hours.  If you lose eligibility for group health benefits, you should receive a COBRA notice.  If your employer wants to continue health care coverage during the furlough, you’ll probably still need to pay your portion of the premiums.

Can I apply for unemployment?

Typically, you only qualify for unemployment benefits if you lose your job.  Although each state has its own unemployment program with its own rules, states must comply with federal laws and regulations.  In response to the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Labor issued new guidance that gives states the ability to amend their rules during the pandemic.

How can Alan Lescht and Associates help me?

If you are on a furlough, unemployed, or have fewer hours because of COVID-19, we can help.  Our attorneys will evaluate the facts of your case and advise you about your eligibility for unemployment benefits and ability to bring any other claims.  Alan Lescht and Associates represents federal government employees around the world, and state and local government and private sector employees in DC, Maryland, and northern Virginia.

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