Sometimes, all it takes to cure a budget shortfall is to cut one position. As a business move, doing so is just as valid as conducting a much larger layoff. As long as you can show the change was based on business needs, you won’t lose a discrimination case.
Recent case: Beverly worked in housekeeping as a supervisor at a nursing home. She also served temporarily as maintenance director while the nursing home was searching for a permanent director. She then returned to her old position.
When Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements fell, the nursing home had to cut costs.
Because it had been getting complaints about cleanliness and morale, it decided eliminating Beverly’s job would save the most money while causing the least operational disruption. She was terminated in what the nursing home called a reduction in force. She was 59 years old.
She sued, alleging age discrimination. She argued that there is no such thing as a RIF of one. By her reasoning, she had really been cut because of her age and the nursing home shouldn’t be allowed to argue that it carried out a RIF.
The court disagreed. It said a RIF doesn’t have to involve more than one employee. If the economics only require one position to be cut, that’s still a legitimate RIF. (Alferink v. Manor Care, No. 1:11-CV-2359, ND OH, 2012)
Final note: Economic reasons are almost always a winning termination strategy.