If economic conditions force you to downsize, be prepared for lawsuits. That's especially true if no employees stand out as obvious poor performers who should be canned. In such cases, articulate that you have no choice but to fire "the worst of the best." Usethat were prepared before the downsizing to justify your choices. That makes it hard for lawyers to paint a discriminatory picture.
Recent case: When MetLife targeted its data-analysis division for a rif, it selected the lowest-ranking employees for termination. The company selected Anthony Marione, even though he was performing at acceptable levels. He sued, alleging age bias, but the 3rd Circuit tossed out the case. Reason: Marione couldn't point to any evidence that MetLife's stated reason for his selection (to eliminate the "worst of the best") was a pretext for age discrimination. (Marione v. MetLife, No. 05-2359, 2006)