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Lindsey Novak


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Hard Choice To Make: Severance or Part-Time Job


Q: My job will be cut from full-time to part-time in early April. I could either stay and work part time or take the 18-week severance I was offered. When the severance is over, I could apply for unemployment. I have been in the same position for 10 years and have close working relationships with my manager and my co-workers. My boss thinks I should stay, work part time and hope for the possibility of being moved to full time again. We are in the process of a merger, so there is no guarantee. It seems the economy is on the upswing, but I know I wouldn't find a job making as much as I make now. The trouble is that I can't live on a part-time salary. What should I do?

A: Leaving a 10-year job you love is a frightening proposition. The market is opening a little but not enough for people to feel secure. It still is taking six months to a year for people to find new employment; the higher number of unemployed means greater competition. Here is what you would have if you chose to stay: You love your company, your job, your boss and your co-workers. You also know you would not make as much money at a new job somewhere else. Your boss wants you to stay and plans to promote you to full time as soon as possible.

Your other choice is to accept 18 weeks of severance, which would take you up to August. You could collect unemployment after that and conduct a job search. When you got a job, you would have to learn new job duties and work with new bosses and co-workers, whom you might not like. You also would be at the bottom level of seniority and benefits (though you didn't say whether your existing benefits would be reduced if you were to stay). Are you starting to see the level of stress you would experience? Also, a lower salary at a new full-time job might be somewhat comparable to your part-time salary in your current job.

Only you can decide, but it seems that the risks involved in leaving far outweigh the benefits of getting severance.

And no one is telling you not to look for a full-time job while you are working part time.

Manager in on Employee Stealing From Restaurant Chain

Q: I worked part time at a fast-food chain in Texas. I have a bubbly, fun personality. I like working, and I am honest. One of my co-workers picked fights with me, as we have different morals and ethics. I caught her stealing money and told her to put it back, but she would not. I reported it to the boss, who did nothing about it. I later found out that the boss was stealing, too. I tried to tell them that it was not a "good idea" and that they should stop, but I failed to convince them. I was afraid to report them to the owner, but I quit. What else could I do?

A: I am sure that all the honest workers out there thank you. Dishonest employees make the workplace more difficult for everyone. Employee theft hurts everyone. Business owners become less trusting and not as kind and generous as they would be to employees. The public pays because stealing drives up prices. It was brave of you to confront them and try to correct it immediately. You also placed yourself in jeopardy, because no one knows how people will respond to accusations. If you ever again witness such behavior, consider reporting it directly to the owner rather than confronting the ones committing the crime. People have killed for far less than fast-food restaurant profits.

E-mail Lindsey Novak at with all your workplace questions. She answers all e-mails. To find out more about Lindsey Novak and to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



17 Comments | Post Comment
On staying part time, if you stay that way for too long and then get canned anyway it can affect your unemployment compensation. It may vary by state but in CA, I think the rate is based on your average earnings for the past FIVE quarters.

It's nice that this person is so beloved by current bosses and co-workers, but with mergers on a never-ending spree of cost cutting, there's no guarantee of anything here. They love her (him?) but all that love doesn't translate into anything other than warm words and vague promises. Now would be a great time to get them all to agree to be references, and to write letters of recommendation.

Plus, if fear of the new world is the only thing keeping this person back, don't let fear keep you paralyzed. Stick with the part time but not for too long, and start hunting NOW. You can do that openly, which is a big help, and it may make your boss feel the urgency of keeping you around all the more.

I'd also advise not relying on the job ad thing - time to start networking with other professionals in your field. Join user groups and professional associations, go to a convention if it's not too expensive or far from home. Maybe you can land some freelance and grow that into something worth keeping. Or even start a side business in something totally new, and diversify.

The other thing about being part-time is get your health insurance nailed down. After 18 months of Cal-COBRA myself, I was able to find an affordable individual plan which I can keep no matter where my job is. I had the help of a great benefits administrator in this - can't ever thank her enough.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Red Ree
Thu Mar 3, 2011 11:12 AM
Given the arguments already stated by Ms Novak, I would advise you to stay where you are and use the extra time to search for a full-time job. By the time time you've found one, the situation at your present place may have been regularised and you may have two offers on the table. If you cannot live on a part-time salary, consider taking a temporary second part-time job or advertise for a roommate - if feasible.

LW2 -
Now that you,re out of there and out of ranter for the thieves' claws, how about informing the boos of the shenanigans going on at his place of business? Given the present economy, he can't afford not to know, I think.

Comment: #2
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Thu Mar 3, 2011 11:29 AM
P.S. to LW1: You are also more desirable to an employer if you're currectly employed, even part-time.

Comment: #3
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Thu Mar 3, 2011 11:31 AM

LW2 -
Now that you're out of there and out of range for the thieves' claws, how about informing the owner of the shenanigans going on at his place of business? Given the present economy, he can't afford not to know, I think.

Comment: #4
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Thu Mar 3, 2011 11:32 AM
HI! I am the one that wrote the first letter. The amount of money I'd be losing is the amount of my mortgage payment. The job is cumbersome at times even at full time hours. Which will be no fun at part time and impossible to do realistically. I don't get the severance if I stay. My chances really are better at finding full time job elsewhere. I know I'd be starting on the bottom again, but if I stay and make 1/2 my salary then when the merger is complete they could cut again and then I wouldn't get what I am offered now. These details were left out.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Diane
Fri Mar 4, 2011 1:10 PM
Diane - aha, you'll be expected to complete ALL the work that you do full-time, but in half the time and be paid half - that's kind of an important detail, and doesn't seem worth it.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Steve
Fri Mar 4, 2011 4:20 PM

A long time ago, I was offered a similar choice, and surprised my boss when I refused. One of the better choices that I made. Good luck with your decision and your job hunt.
Comment: #7
Posted by: KateM
Sat Mar 5, 2011 3:16 AM
Re: Diane

This changes the deal. Then you are better off looking for a full-time job. With 18 weeks' pay, you have until August before you can get on unemployment and your income is cut down, which gives you some room for manoeuvre. I would suggest you put yourself on austerity mode big time right NOW, to stretch your severance money as much as possible, in case you haven't lined up a job yet by then. And the best of luck to you!

Comment: #8
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Sat Mar 5, 2011 10:22 AM
A@ Diane again -

P.S.: You haven't addressed it and I don't know if it's at all feasible, but do consider the roommate possibility. It saves money and therefore gives you more time to find that job.

Comment: #9
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Sat Mar 5, 2011 10:26 AM
Diane: I would think quitting would be the best option?? Severence will cover for a while and I understood unemployment basically gives you 60% of what you made full time?? THis is more than your part time salary i would think.... With Obama increasing unemployment to (18 months-- 3 years), you should make more money off unemployment than working part time, even if you dont work for 18 weeks (severence) plus additional 3 years. This seems too obvious to miss so I may be wrong on something
Comment: #10
Posted by: julie
Tue Mar 8, 2011 1:43 PM
Oops, typo on previous post... unemployment was extended 18 months ?? so total of 3 years available?? At least in some cases... Anyway, I am probably wrong on several things as it sounds too good to be true?? Anyone who knows, I'd love to know more about unemployment just out of curiousity...
Comment: #11
Posted by: julie
Tue Mar 8, 2011 1:51 PM
Re: julie. I can tell you a couple of things about unemployment insurance, since you asked.

1) You usually don't collect it if you quit your job, unless you can demonstrate a VERY good reason for having done so. I'm talking "hostile work environment" type stuff. Usually the people drawing UI were laid-off or fired...and some of the fired's are also ineligible if the reason for termination was serious enough.

So "Diane" here had better think good and hard about quitting a job and whether the severance package is worth it. I'm inclined to wonder why so many critical details were apparently left out of the letter (and what other letters are similarly misrepresented)...or why she bothered to write to Novak in the first place if her mind is apparently already made-up.

2) The unemployment extension package was part of a compromise deal between the new GOP-run House of Rep's and the president; the other half of the deal was an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts. The UI extension does not add anything to the current 99-week limit; I believe it simply brings everyone up to that point.

3) UI insurance is often taxed by the federal government at 10%. So you draw checks - and unless you instruct your state's EDD office to withhold the federal tax portion, the IRS comes along with its hand out when you file your return the following year. Lucky you!
Comment: #12
Posted by: Matt
Wed Mar 9, 2011 12:38 AM
Re: Matt

Diane is not quitting her job of her own volition, she's being given severance pay after being laid-off. I don't believe it's the same as simply resigning from a position you could have kept as is. But you raise a valid concern and she should check on that with her local unemployment office to make sure.

Comment: #13
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Wed Mar 9, 2011 6:34 AM
My advice to LW1 is take the severance. You can't afford to work part time so really this shouldn't even be an issue. Take the severance and apply for unemployment and take then take the time to discover if you want to continue in your field or go back to school and try another. You should look at this like the opportunity it is. Good luck.
Comment: #14
Posted by: Diana
Wed Mar 9, 2011 8:54 AM
Interesting stuff, I did know you have to be fired/laid off but was wondering how much (percentage of previous income) a full time person would make. suppose it depends on your state, and more things?? Diane would be laid off though so could get it. INteresting it only extends about 2 years - still a really freakin long time in my opinion but.... anyway... I would think after 6-8 months or so one could go flip burgers/walmart greet, etc. Sucky but thats the way it goes... Dont mean to ruffle feathers saying that! :)
Comment: #15
Posted by: julie
Wed Mar 9, 2011 1:52 PM
@julie: "I did know you have to be fired/laid off but was wondering how much (percentage of previous income) a full time person would make."

It may vary from state to state, but in mine, EDD determines the average salary based upon your last three positions - which is why it asks for salary information when you apply for UI. It then, I believe, awards you a monthly UI check at around 50% of that average -half of what you made while working.
Comment: #16
Posted by: Matt
Wed Mar 9, 2011 6:19 PM
In Indiana as of right now, unemployment benefits are based on the wages earned in the first twelve months of the 18 months before you file. This means that if your state has the same method of calculating, Diane, your UI calculation would be based on full time wages after your severance ran out. If you stay on and get laid off anyway later, you may be getting benefits based on part time wages. Even though it is easier to find a job while you're employed, as mentioned above, companies are increasingly letting that slip with more and more qualified applicants that have been laid off.

I also want to touch on one more thing: Matt's right that voluntary quits can and likely will get you denied for UI except in cases of harrassment or other specific conditions. Lise is right that Diane doesn't count as a voluntary quit. *But*... in Indiana the law just changed to disqualify people who accept a voluntary layoff, which this may be considered to be. Diane, you should see what the curent law is in your state regarding voluntary layoff, not voluntary quit. You may only be eligible for UI if you accept the part time job, but it's possible you could draw partial unemployment to help make up the difference while you look for a full time job, since you were full time and your hours were reduced. Most states post their claimant handbooks online, search "your state unemployment" and then search "claimant handbook" from the unemployment page or visit your local office if your state has them. This can help you weigh your options and decide if partial UI would be worth it, and if you'd be eligible for UI after your severance runs out. There are also training programs in most states for dislocated workers if you're unlikely to be able to find work in your field again. (FYI, in case you haven't guessed, I work in unemployment claims.)
Comment: #17
Posted by: Nichole
Sun Mar 20, 2011 1:01 PM
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