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I turned in my resignation Dec 3rd and gave Jan 3rd as my last day.

On the 11th, I was told that they were looking into me leaving on Dec 31st, because they didn't want me to work in 2020.

Can they do that, and make my benefits end Dec 31st? They want me to sign a letter that they wrote on my behalf confirming this. Can I refuse to sign and say my last day is the 3rd? And get the benefits?

I live in Illinois USA, and at-will state worked for company almost 6 years.

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    Is this at-will employment? They can just fire you on the spot if it is. – Nelson Dec 18 '19 at 5:15
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    Hi Elizabeth - to get the best answer, please can you edit your question to include your country or state, as what employers can and can't do is subject to local laws – HorusKol Dec 18 '19 at 5:20
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    It is a very common practice to have resignations end on the last day of the month, as it makes all sorts of calculations and bookkeepping much easier. Especially in this case. – Juha Untinen Dec 18 '19 at 5:42
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    In the USA, pay is very often weekly or biweekly. Jan 3rd is the end of the week. – gnasher729 Dec 18 '19 at 9:37
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    @gnasher729: I am not familiar with how things work in the US, but in other parts of the world end-of-month, and especially end-of-year, are a lot more important than end-of-week. – virolino Dec 18 '19 at 13:10
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Can they do that, and make my benefits end Dec 31st?

Yes, they can do that.

(The exception would be if you are part of a union or have some sort of extremely unusual employment contract that specifically allows you to decide for yourself when your last day will occur. If you had such a contract, you would already know it.)

Illinois is an at-will employment state. They can terminate you for any reason that isn't illegal.

They want me to sign a letter that they wrote on my behalf confirming this. Can I refuse to sign and say my last day is the 3rd?

Yes, you can refuse to sign the confirmation letter. But that won't change your end date.

And get the benefits?

No. Refusing to sign their letter won't extend your employment or benefits.

You can use COBRA to continue your health insurance coverage. And since COBRA can be applied for retroactively, you won't actually have to pay any premiums unless care is needed in the month of January. Your employer will give you some forms and information during your exit interview. (Do a bit of research on COBRA on your own so that you understand the rules. They can be a bit tricky.)

And if your company allows you to accrue vacation days, then they must pay you for all accrued or earned vacation upon your separation.

The fact that they said they were "looking into [you] leaving on Dec 31st" might mean that they haven't yet decided. So perhaps they could be convinced if you talk with them further and explain your reasoning. But they are fully within the law to end your employment on December 31st if they choose.

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    I agree with this. If the OP refuses to sign, they could just fire her instead; the OP can't force them to extend her until January 3 if they really don't want to. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Dec 19 '19 at 17:44
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The two things that dictate what can happen are:

  • the law;
  • your contract(s).

What will actually happen, is actually a matter of "negotiation" between you and your company. You need to keep these in mind:

  • it would be nice of you to accept the end of the contract at Dec 31; the extra work they require for the 3 extra days in January is huge;
  • it would be nice of them to accommodate your request for Jan 3.

You did not write the reason why you chose such an unusual date for a contract end (Jan 3), so I would favor the first option, you being nicer towards the people who must handle all the paperwork.

If you add information about your reasons for the 3 extra days, then the answer might change accordingly.


They want me to sign a letter that they wrote on my behalf confirming this.

It is in their rights to want anything.

Can I refuse to sign and say my last day is the 3rd?

Obviously, you can refuse. And you should, if you think that it is beneficial to you. Except some details explicitly mentioned by law, everything else must be common agreement.

And get the benefits?

That is very specific information, I cannot help. A lawyer might be better suited to answer.

However, considering the paper that they want you to sign, it seems that you are actually entitled to benefits - which they do not want you to have, for whatever reason.

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    January 3rd was most likely picked because it is a month after the resignation date, dec 3rd. – Borgh Dec 18 '19 at 9:09
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    That is kind of obvious, but the resignation date itself could have been Nov 30 / Dec 1. – virolino Dec 18 '19 at 9:10
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    Hinting and alluding are not good ways to write questions. At least, not here on SE. I will not fall into the trap to start brainstorming reasons for OP. She wants better answer, she writes more info. Easy :) – virolino Dec 18 '19 at 9:16
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    The problem is, my benefits will now end on Dec 31st. and because I had told them Jan 3rd last day, I dont start new job until Jan 6th, and wont get benefits or pay for thise days. – ELIZABETH Dec 18 '19 at 13:06
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    @JoeStrazzere - However, as you correctly point out in your answer, if the author is terminated on the date the company wants it doesn't extend their coverage either. – Donald Dec 18 '19 at 18:20
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No company is going to go through the hassle of extra monthly and annual paperwork (and potentially an extra year of benefit costs if you go get new glasses on Jan 2) to keep an employee for just two extra days (as Jan 1 is a holiday).

They would be foolish to let you say no.

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    foolish or not. depending on the law it might just not be their choice – elPolloLoco Dec 18 '19 at 9:39
  • How do I find out the law? The are wanting me to sign a lerter they wrote but made it sound like I wrote saying my benefits end on the 31st. I did not sign it – ELIZABETH Dec 18 '19 at 11:56
  • Thank you for your answer I appreciate it – ELIZABETH Dec 18 '19 at 14:26
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    @ELIZABETH - Not only can the company choose to terminate you when they want, they can do it the day you put your notice in, they don't have to keep you around. Likewise, you don't technically have to work a notice period, neither side can be forced to work for/employee the other party. – Donald Dec 18 '19 at 18:23
  • @elPolloLoco The OP lives in an at-will employment state, so if she refuses to sign her employer could just fire her instead. They're not obligated to keep the OP around just because she wants to stay until January 3. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Dec 20 '19 at 13:53
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It’s probably in your employer’s best interest to change the date to Dec. 31st. But it’s absolutely not in your best interest.

So write back and say that you gave notice to leave on Jan 3rd ( which is the end of the week btw. for the person who thought it was strange) and that you will be leaving on the 3rd and expect to be paid until the 3rd.

Then you see what happens.

PS: How do I find out what the law is? Answer: In many cases the law is irrelevant, because relying on the law is often expensive. Like here: You gave notice for the 3rd, your company doesn’t like it and asks you to change it, and you say “no”. They can accept it and the law doesn’t matter. They can ask again and you say no again, the law doesn’t matter. They can tell you you have to change it by law, then you ask “which law”. As long as they ask you to change the date, you know they haven’t found anything in law or in your contract that allows the company to change the data without your permission.

Worst case would be the company telling you “we changed the date to Dec 31st”. In that case one possible answer is for you to say “that’s against the law, so I will take a lawyer and it will cost you”. Saying this has a 10 percent chance of working and costs nothing. If that doesn’t work, you need to decide if this is worth a legal fight to you, and if the answer is ”yes” you get a lawyer.

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  • And since they're asking her to sign something. Just cross out the part that's wrong. Initial it and sign it. – Stephan Branczyk Dec 18 '19 at 11:13
  • This is my concern they specifically want me to sign saying my benefits end Dec 31st. I dont start new job until Jan 6th because I had put Jan 3rd to help cover my current office. So I will not have any benefits. – ELIZABETH Dec 18 '19 at 13:10
  • It’s not silly to make a claim when it has a small chance to succeed and no cost if it fails. You hire a lawyer if you think it’s worth it, and a decent lawyer will tell you very quickly. What a company can do and what it does is not the same. – gnasher729 Dec 18 '19 at 14:18
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You asked a question which hasn't been directly addressed in other answers yet:

And get the benefits?

Many employers run benefits on monthly or bimonthly cycles, so if they record your last day as December 31st, you may indeed lose your benefits as of that date.

Your new employer may also run benefits monthly, in one of two ways: either your benefits start as of the 1st of the month in which you begin work, or your benefits start on the 1st of the month after your start date. Given that you've stated you begin your new job on Jan 6th, this may be either Jan 1 or Feb 1, respectively.

So, the first step should be to reach out to your new employer and confirm their benefits policy in terms of when benefits begin relative to your start date.

If it turns out that you would be left with a gap in an important benefit - such as healthcare - you still have options. Namely, COBRA regulations give you the option to elect to continue under your current employer's healthcare plan.

Essentially, COBRA gives you from 18 - 36 months of access to your current plan, and you have up to 60 days to elect that coverage. Further - and importantly, in your situation - you can elect the coverage retroactively back to your termination date at any point during that 60 day window.

The catch to COBRA is that it is usually very expensive, since the employer will typically elect not to contribute - so you will likely be paying a significantly higher premium.

This all basically means that if you end up with a gap in your coverage, you can simply wait and see if you incur any medical expenses that would be covered. If you do, and those expenses would cost more than the COBRA premium, you can reach out to your plan and elect coverage back to your term date, and the expenses would be covered. Or, if you already know you will have expenses during the time in which you'd have a gap, you can just elect coverage upfront. Once you have COBRA coverage, it behaves just like your plan had in the past, in terms of claims, customer service, and so on.

So - if your ultimate concern is losing healthcare coverage betweek jobs, that's likely not an issue, even if your employer changes your final date.

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  • Is each companies Cobra different to know if 18 months or 36? – ELIZABETH Dec 19 '19 at 4:17
  • The difference (18 vs 36 months) depends on the reason for your loss of benefits. In your case, since you're leaving by choice, you would be entitled to 18 months of coverage. The regulation applies the same to all employers with more than 20 employees and all state and local government employers. – dwizum Dec 19 '19 at 13:41
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Short answer: yes, they can do that. Unless you have a contract that says otherwise, Illinois is, as you indicate, an at-will employment state. Technically, you're not obligated to sign it, but they could just fire you if you won't. They're not obligated to keep you as an employee any more than you're obligated to keep working there.

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