These are tough economic times, and employers can’t be blamed for cost-cutting measures such as reductions in force. But before you act to trim your labor burden, prepare solid evidence showing exactly why you must cut those costs.
You need a clear, written record, since those who participated in the decision-making may not be around to testify if the layoffs are challenged in lawsuits.
Recent case: Mary Cropsey worked as a teacher until the school system declined to renew her contract at the beginning of the new school year. She believed she had been singled out to lose her job because she was older, not religious enough and too outspoken about safety issues. She sued for discrimination.
The school district was well-prepared for the charges. It had carefully documented its layoff decision, which affected nine teachers. The district explained that it cut those teachers because another school had opened in the district. As a result, their school had lost 200 students.
It countered the age bias complaint by showing that all the other teachers who lost their jobs were younger than Cropsey. The court said Cropsey didn’t offer any evidence that religion or free speech had anything to do with her selection as part of the cut group.
It ruled the school district’s reasons were based on solid economic and student enrollment data, not age, religion or free speech. It dismissed the case. (Cropsey v. School Board of Manatee County, et al., No. 8:08-CV-519, MD FL, 2009)
Final note: You simply will never know what lawsuits you’re going to have to deal with. Prepare for the worst by keeping great records and building logical explanations before the fact. For more on how to prevent lawsuits in this tough economic climate, see Lawsuits on the rise: Audit your policies to prevent litigation.
- OK to cut position of worker on FMLA leave--if you can prove FMLA status didn't affect decision
- Trust your fair policies: they'll prevail in court
- Keep your credibility intact: 12 lessons from the courtroom
- Scrutinize true reasons for layoff; then banish all inconsistencies
- Document discharge reasons before taking action