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Layoffs: Walk a fine line to avoid age-Bias laws

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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? —P.U., Georgia

A. Your company is small enough so that the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act does not cover it. But employers in your position also need to check their state age-discrimination laws. For example, Georgia law makes it a misdemeanor for any employer to discriminate against employees between the ages of 40 and 70 "solely upon the ground of age."

As with many age-bias cases, your situation needs more analysis of the facts to assess your potential liability exposure. For example, is the older worker performing the same job functions as the other employees? These are the kinds of issues to discuss with counsel before taking action. 

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