We are going through some tough times and employees are aware that lay offs are a distinct possibility. Employers are trying to be mindful of the emotional impact on their employees (one-in-four employees believe they may be layed off). The end result is businesses may have to cut a few jobs to save a few jobs in order to survive.
We are receiving calls everyday on the best course of action to follow when an employer is forced into laying off staff members. The following points are important to remember.
1. Unless there is a union environment seniority does not matter. An employer has the right to choose the “best team moving forward.”
2. Do not announce a “Lay off is coming!” Employees, when on notice that they may be leaving their jobs, have been known to have “accidents,” while others suddenly recall they may have been harassed in some matter, subsequently complain, and then want to later argue that they were laid off in retaliation.
3. Keep the intended lay off list VERY CONFIDENTIAL!
4. When “Older” workers are part of the lay off picture simply remember it is not an age issue. It’s a performance issue “if” they had not been doing their job. Hopefully the proper documentation is in place. If not, the overall lay off picture should reflect an even distribution based upon age. Please understand that I never want an employer to focus on age. The focus should be on the individuals prior performance and how that individual will be able to handle the increased workload moving forward.
5. There are situations when an employee has worked for the employer for a very long time and the employer feels obligated to give the exiting employee some sort of severance package. In exchange for that extra check the employer wants the employee to sign a release. Keep in mind, if the extra check is for only two weeks pay, it may not be worth trying to have them sign the release. If they are contemplating bringing an action two weeks pay is not going to deter them. If they weren’t thinking in that direction and you shove a release under their nose, they may, for the first time, think they have a case. Please discuss any potential severance packages with me.
6. LARGER employers (thousands of employees) may have other legal requirements under the “Warn Act” and need to call me for the specific requiements to conduct lay offs.
Finally, I wish the best for all of you and hope, as you do, that the economy will begin to turn around soon.