While you may not want to share the information with your employees as you prepare for a reduction in force, be sure to document the reasons.
That’s especially true if the underlying reasons are monetary—that you simply can’t afford to employ as many people as you have in the past.
It will be tough for an employee who loses her job to challenge that rationale.
Recent case: Diane, the last of four engineering technicians hired in her office, filed several EEOC sex discrimination complaints. When business fell off considerably, her employer planned a reduction-in-force, and Diane was terminated.
She sued, claiming she had been fired in retaliation for her earlier complaints.
She told the court that there had never been a shortage of work and said that was evidence she was really fired in retaliation for engaging in protected activity.
The employer countered with evidence that it had always considered its budget numbers as it planned the layoff. It said the workload was never a consideration. In this case, there had been a dramatic decrease in the amount of customer demand, cutting into revenues.
The court dismissed the case, accepting the employer’s explanation. (Durant v. Padre Dam Municipal Water District, No. D065088, Court of Appeal of California, 2015)
Final note: Courts want to believe employers are acting honestly and fairly. Make it easy for them by documenting your decisions and showing that layoffs are nothing personal, but merely sound business decisions.
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Make sure HR reviews each firing in advance
- How should we go about changing severance pay policies spelled out in employment agreements?
- Trouble-free terminations: 5 smart strategies for managers
- Rules for tough times: California's Baby WARN Act and layoffs