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Layoffs that aren't handled well can trigger lawsuits, particularly if workers feel they weren't treated fairly. But a recent survey shows that businesses are taking many steps to ease the impact.

To avoid layoffs, 63 percent of companies rely on attrition, 49 percent freeze hiring, 21 percent don't renew contract workers and 20 percent encourage employees to take vacations, according to the Society for Human Resource Management's Layoffs and Job Security Survey.

When they did lay off workers, 41 percent had a manager and human resources representative talk with the workers individually, while 20 percent held group meetings and 5 percent issued the equivalent of a pink slip, a written notice.

About 80 percent of laid-off workers get severance packages. Of the companies offering packages, 95 percent pay workers for unused vacation, 73 percent continue pay for a certain period and 43 percent provide outplacement services.

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