Careers and Finance

Return to sender? Employees weigh in on returning to companies that sent them packing

The past few months haven’t been easy for many American workers, including Kevin from Lincoln Park.

“I was put on furlough in March and I was laid off in April,” says Kevin, a 27-year-old retail buyer who specializes in fitness apparel and doesn’t want his last name used. “And in August, I was told I could have my old job back on Sept. 1 if I wanted it,” he says. “And I’m still not sure if I’m going to accept it.”


Kevin says he was offered the same salary but would need to work through the rest of the year without taking any vacation days. He’s been told he can do most of his work from home but knows part of his job includes visiting vendors and manufacturing facilities so he assumes he’ll spend plenty of time away from home. “It’s part of the job. I’m OK with that,” he says.

What he’s not OK with was the callous way his employer treated him when the pandemic first started. “There was no effort at all to save my job,” he says. “And my company was on the receiving end of a nice chunk of money from the government but that didn’t matter. They furloughed me and then laid me off within a matter of four weeks.”


Like many employees who were placed on furlough by their employers or let go entirely, Kevin is struggling with re-entering the workforce with his previous employer. But it’s not the future that worries Kevin, it’s the past. “I’m not looking for guarantees,” he says. “Maybe I just would like an apology, a little courtesy.”

‘It hurts’

Allison Rather says she knows the feeling. The Oakland, California-based audio engineer, who works as an independent contractor, was released from four separate contracts, all of which allowed for termination under a vaguely defined emergency circumstances. “Dumb of me to use a standard contract that allowed for an ‘act of god’ release or something like that,” says Rather, who says she understands the loss of work—acts of god notwithstanding—but she just wishes her clients could have been a little more creative with what both she and they could do to honor their original agreement.

“I do a lot of my work in non-studio venues so bars and board rooms were out,” she says. “But there were ways to do things that would have worked, even at a smaller scale.”

Rather says she doesn’t understand why a personal phone call wasn’t a given when she was being released from her contracts. “Three texts and one email,” she says. “It hurts, you know, especially when you’ve been working with someone for a while and they can’t even bother to pick up the phone to let you know they can’t use you right now.”

Eventually, though, three of the four creative-services groups she works with offered her new deals. “Everything was for less work and less money, which again, I understand, but you have to swallow hard and sign the contract,” she says. “But do I hold on to some hard feelings? Sure. But I appreciate the work and I’m happy they came back to me when they could.”

Choose wisely

If you’re out of work and receive a call asking you to return to your employer, it may be a no-brainer, especially if money is tight. But if you have some savings to spare or are worried about your ability to get past your anger about being let go, here are a few things to consider:


● Money: Paying the rent is a huge motivator, of course, but don’t feel guilty if some of the things listed in your “want” column make their way to the “need” side of the document. You may no longer consider Netflix optional and that’s OK. Make an income-vs-expenses decision based on your own reality, not one listed on a financial guru’s website. Don’t feel guilty about going back to work so you can spend a few extra bucks.

● Relationships: If you work with people you resent because of preferential treatment, it may be tough to go back to the old team. But if you can control your feelings for those co-workers who didn’t get laid off and the bosses who let you go, you should be OK. And remember, a lot of good people were forced into making hard decisions. It’s up to you whether or not you want to hold those decisions against them.

● Benefits: If you’re being impacted by the loss of some of the fundamentals—health, dental, vision—you might want to strongly reconsider getting back to work, even if you have to make a few internal concessions. And if your company is making an extra-hard effort to get you back, perhaps a company-kick-in toward that boatload of student loan debt could become a bargaining chip.

● The work: Are you still interested in and motivated by what you’re working on each day or have you become so jaded with the events of the past several months that you no longer care? If you fall into the latter category, you might want to think very carefully about your next move.