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What risks do we run if older worker loses job in restructuring?

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Q. We’re a small business (just eight employees) and haven’t laid anyone off. But business is slow and we need to restructure. We have an employee who has worked here part time (12 hours per week) for 25 years. She is 65 years old. We have one other part-timer (10 hours per week) who has worked here just one year. We’d like to lay off both part-time employees and keep the full-time employees. Can we do that?

A.
You can, but you want to make sure that you have good business reasons for deciding to lay off the part-timers. You don’t want a claim from the 65-year-old employee that her layoff was based on her age. You should also look at the age of the other part-time employee and the ages of the full-time employees, as well as whether any of your employees fall into other protected classes.

If, for instance, the 65-year-old is your oldest and most senior employee, you may be more vulnerable to a claim of age discrimination. That doesn’t mean that you should avoid making the best business decision, but it underscores the importance of making that decision carefully. 

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