What is a “furlough”  when applied to a private business with a non-union workforce in California?  In my view, it is a temporary layoff (or required unpaid leave due to lack of work) with full expectations to return to work.  However, too many California businesses were not clear on what they meant by the term when they “furloughed” workers back in March, and that is causing unnecessary confusion now.

When workers were “furloughed” were they provided an anticipated return to work date?  Did they have a right to reinstatement?  Were they told when/if health benefits would end and they would be offered Cobra?  When/if they would be paid final wages (and accrued vacation/PTO) if not brought back?  Were they given a WARN notice?  Hopefully the answers are yes to these questions, but if not, confusion reigns when trying to figure out their status as businesses open up again, or open with scaled back work-forces, or open and close and reopen depending on local orders.

Hopefully employers have since clarified what they meant by furlough, and either brought workers back, or paid out accrued wages and vacation, and issued formal layoff notices with the proper end of employment paperwork and unemployment information.  If not, I suspect the number of claims by “furloughed” workers, who do not understand their status (and their employers can’t explain it), will continue to rise.