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Budget cuts forcing layoffs or reorganization? Take care to spell out justification

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

These are tough times for private and public employers. Budgets are tight and it may be necessary to cut staffing levels. If you must eliminate jobs, make sure you create a clear paper trail explaining why and how you made the decision to terminate a particular individual.

That’s especially important if the employee had discrimination charges pending—or a history of filing them.

Recent case: John Rabun complained to the EEOC about a performance evaluation he received from a new supervisor. Meanwhile, the community college where he worked had its budget slashed. Ad­­ministrators decided to reorganize to save money. HR took the lead and concluded that Rabun’s position could be eliminated without affecting the college’s ability to serve its mission.

Rabun amended his EEOC complaint, adding a retaliation claim.

But the college gave the EEOC clear documentation, showing it the fiscal constraints and why this particular position could be cut. Rabun sued anyway.

However, the Court of Appeal of California refused to second-guess the college’s decision, concluding it was based on legitimate operational needs. (Rabun v. Compton Community College, No. B225899, Court of Appeal of California, 2nd Appellate District, 2011)

Final note: Sometimes, you have to make decisions that you know may land you in court. Trust your judgment. If you have legitimate reasons and document them, most courts will quickly toss out an employee’s lawsuit. While litigation may be inconvenient, if you become known as a soft target, it will merely increase.

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