Growth displaces legacy staff? Expect lawsuit

When an organization transitions from a start-up to something bigger, company needs are bound to change. So are the duties of the people who work there.

That may mean some workers who were with the company from the beginning could be displaced if their skills and training don’t keep up with the organization’s growing needs. Even a stellar performer may be left behind.

That could trigger a discrimination lawsuit, although it’s likely to fail.

Recent case: Aurora was 59 years old when Amalfi Semiconductor terminated her in a reduction in force.

She saw things differently. Since she was replaced by a 33-year-old woman, Aurora suspected she had been sacked because of age discrimination. She sued.

The company explained to the court that it had gone from a small startup organization to a rapidly expanding one. Leaders were contemplating going public and opening offices in China.

While with Amalfi Semiconductor, Aurora had performed basic bookkeeping and rudimentary accounting tasks. She held a bachelors’ degree in management accounting from a university in the Philippines, but no advanced degrees or certified public accounting credentials.

The younger woman who replaced Aurora had both CPA certification and a master’s degree in business. In addition, she spoke fluent Mandarin.

The company explained it had to replace Aurora because she didn’t have the proper certification to assure the company was abiding by accounting standards now that it had grown bigger and wanted to go public. Plus, many customers and suppliers spoke Mandarin so the new hire’s language abilities were also essential.

The court dismissed Aurora’s lawsuit because Amalfi Semicon­­ductor showed that her skills no longer matched the needs of a growing company. (Shasby v. Amalfi Semiconductor, Court of Appeal of California, 2018)