My Boss Died And Now I’m Out Of A Job

Question:

I work as a office manager in a private dental office. Recently my boss (the dentist) died unexpectedly. The boss’s widow promised me and the other full-time staff members ( 3 in all) that we “would be taken care of”. We all worked very hard to help her sell the practice, and it was sold to another dentist within two weeks.

I was told that in the contract of sale there was a clause that would protect me and the other two employees in the event the new dentist didn’t want to keep us employed. However, I found out today that this was a lie-there is no severence package or other compensation in the new boss’s contract in the event he gets rid of one of us. Even though I began working for him for a week, is it impossible for me to go on unemployment under the circumstances?

If I knew I was not protected in the transaction I would have asked for a contract, but now, of course, it is too late…..Please help!!

Signed,

Worried About Job


Answer:

Dear Worried About Job:

What an unfortunate set of circumstances! You write as though you assume you WILL be unemployed soon. Perhaps that is not the case. Have you talked to the new dentist about this matter?

I think communication is your first priority. Talk to your new employer honestly about your concerns, and ask if he has plans to move his former office staff into the new place, or if he intends to keep the current staff–particularly you.

It would have been unusual for part of the sales package to have been a requirement to provide severance for current employees, since that would have greatly increased the cost of buying the business. That is usually part of the outgoing owner’s business responsibility, if they see the ethical need to fulfill that responsiblity.

Likely with the unexpected death of her husband, the dentist’s widow only wanted to get out of the obligation of the practice, and was reeling from all that had happened. She may not have felt she could take money out to provide a severance package for several people. And, she may have been assured that all employees would stay, so she felt nothing further was necessary.

Find out your employment status. Then, if it appears you will be unemployed, contact the department of labor for your state and talk to the section that handles unemployment compensation. Unemployment benefits vary by state in some aspects. However, usually compensation is tied to the business entity and U.C. payments made during the quarters prior to your unemployment, NOT tied to the ownership of the business. That is a matter that you should check with the appropriate office in your state.

If your new boss already has an office manager from his former office, he may feel he is obligated to use that person. Or, if a family member will be assisting him, he may have no reason to pay standard wages for the work. However, if you can show that you are a key to the success of the practice, he may realize the need to keep you there. Money and value for the money is usually the bottom line on these matters. I hope you feel you can talk honestly to your new employer and ask him about his plans. Be an invaluable aid in his new practice. Even if he doesn’t retain everyone, it will make it more likely that he might help you find another office where you can use your knowledge and skills.

Best wishes with this situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens with this.

Tina Lewis Rowe