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RIF results in less workforce diversity? Be ready to prove bias wasn’t the motive

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Not every decision that leaves your workplace less diverse is discriminatory.

But an employee who has lost his job may look at the resulting workforce and conclude that his race or other protected characteristic was why he was part of the reduction in force (RIF).

Prepare for such potential charges with solid documentation showing you had a business reason for each position you cut—and that you didn’t consider who held the job.

Recent case: Charles, who is black, worked as a motor vehicle metal mechanic for a contractor at a U.S. Army facility. When the federal government said it needed to reduce the number of employees at the facility, Charles was terminated.

Charles sued, alleging that five white men in his unit kept their jobs. This, he claimed, was evidence that he was singled out based on his race.

But he couldn’t show that the five who kept their jobs were similarly situated. He didn’t point out what jobs they held, what experience or education they had or whether they had similar disciplinary histories.

To win the case, he would have had to show that the difference between those who kept their jobs and those who didn’t was their protected status. He lost his case. (Noble v. Lear Siegler, No. 13-40686, 5th Cir., 2014)

Final note: Explain why you cut one of several similar employees. Good reasons include experience level, performance and disciplinary history.

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