Sometimes, courts are suspicious of an employer’s claim that it conducted a reduction in force if it can’t support the claim with facts and figures.
Supply the data and make the court comfortable with your company’s decision.
Recent case: Lou Thao, who describes herself as an elderly Hmong woman, worked for Minneapolis metal processor Avtec Finishing Systems, producing parts bound for a single customer. She was terminated in what Avtec called a RIF.
Thao called it discrimination. She sued, saying the real reason she and two other Hmong women were cut was because a supervisor simply didn’t like elderly Hmong women.
The company explained to the court that it had terminated Thao, the other two women and two white men at the same time because of a drop in orders. In fact, the customer on whose orders Thao worked reduced its orders by 50%.
The court believed the company. It said Thao didn’t have anything but unsubstantiated allegations to support her claim of discrimination, while the company had facts and figures to back up its version of events. Plus, it was clear the company didn’t terminate only elderly Hmong women. (Thao v. Avtec Finishing Systems, No. A10-437, Court of Appeals of Minnesota, 2010)
Final note: Courts seldom second-guess employers that deliberate thoughtfully and document their business decisions. Unless employees have more than suspicions, careful employers generally don’t lose lawsuits. But without documentation, all bets are off.