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I started out in a different position at the company I work for. I was promoted in Oct by my boss with an Offer Letter, on company letterhead signed by me. The letter states my salary, various perks and time off after 60 day probationary period which has passed. The exact wording is additionally from the start date listed below 40 hours of vacation and 40 hours of PTO will be granted following a 60 day probationary period in your new position.

The last paragraph says this letter does not constitute an employment contract; rather it outlines the conditions that we will strive to meet during your employment. We will do our best to accommodate all items but bear in mind that we all need to be flexible. We look forward to the continuation of a great relationship with you if you choose to accept.

I accepted by signing.

The company was bought out in Jan and things are falling to pieces. My boss’ position was eliminated last week and this week I was told that I will no longer be doing my job, I will revert back to my original job, my pay will be hourly and a lot less than I was making. Also the offer letter became void when the new company bought us. It was also stated they will take my vacation and PTO away.

Is any of this legal? I’m obviously not happy and am applying for different jobs but don’t know if they can take my time off away. Any advice would be appreciated! I kind of wish they would have eliminated my position so I could’ve been done with them. Is unemployment an option because of the change in pay?

Note: This job is in Virginia.

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    Where are you located? Location makes all the difference i employment law – Peter M Apr 1 at 18:26
  • Sorry, Virgina. – katinva Apr 1 at 18:32
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    @katinva, Sorry to hear about your situation. You can certainly apply for a new job. It won't take too much time to search and apply for a job with LinkedIn and other websites. Recruiters from staffing companies can save you time also. With the current economy, it make take awhile to get a new job. – Job_September_2020 Apr 1 at 19:15
  • So my vacation and PTO can be taken away? – katinva Apr 1 at 19:15
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    What you signed technically wasn't an employment contract. You also signed that you agreed it was not an employment contract. – Donald Apr 1 at 23:35
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Virginia is an at-will state. That basically means your employment "contract" is completely useless, since any side can terminate it at any moment for any or no reason at all.

Can your PTO be taken away? Well, your current contract can be terminated and you can be offered a new one which looks exactly the same minus your PTO. You can take the new offer or not come back tomorrow. Same with any other part of your contract.

As you just found out, the land of the free has a drawback... sometimes it gives other people the freedom to be unconsiderate, rude or dishonest. Perfectly inside the legal limits.

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  • They didn’t mention a new Offer letter, I was just told to go back to my old job on Monday. I had been told by our Tax Advisor that I should fight it because they couldn’t take time away that I already had. I know she isn’t a legal expert though. – katinva Apr 1 at 20:34
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    What happens to the PTO you already accumulated if they had simply fired you? – nvoigt Apr 1 at 21:10
  • I have always been paid out for my vacation when leaving a job and have had friends get fired and they were paid out their time as well. I’ve never had it broken down into PTO and vacation, it’s always been sick and vacation. Sick time was not paid out. – katinva Apr 1 at 21:37
  • It doesn't matter what other companies have done. It only matters what is the corporate policy and what does state law say about paying out PTO. – mhoran_psprep Apr 2 at 10:11
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In theory, you could resign and claim unemployment benefits under the theory that the significant reduction in salary constitutes constructive dismissal. You'd realistically want to speak with an employment attorney in Virginia before doing that. That would be a very fact-specific claim so specifics of what you were making before the buyout, what you're making now, and other factors would come in to play. A local employment attorney would be able to tell you how likely it is your particular claim would be approved.

Practically, however, you're almost certainly better off looking for a new job and sticking it out until you get one. Unfortunately, your new employer "strove to meet" the conditions of your new offer but didn't strive hard enough to actually meet them so you're in a situation that sucks but that you probably can't do much about. Unless other aspects of the new position are so terrible that your physical or mental health is impacted by working there, the amount of effort and stress that would be required to make a successful unemployment claim is probably too high to justify (though, see first paragraph, get an actual expert lawyer's opinion if this is something you'd consider). Plus, it's generally easier to get a job when you already have one than when you're unemployed.

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Don't get too worked up about it. Things change. Given the new reality - do you want to keep the job? If so, embrace it. If not, start looking.

You might consider how this could have gone the other way - maybe after accepting the offer, you got a new, better offer and decide to take that one instead. In that case the first employer would have been hurt that you accepted and then changed your mind - but hey, that's life. I've seen it go both ways.

I DON'T suggest that you quit immediately or look for ways to collect unemployment, as it will make it much, much harder to get another job. The fact that you already have one gives you much better negotiating leverage. (Google "BATNA")

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