We Protect Workers

Downsizing doesn’t give employers the right to discriminate

Sometimes, companies have no choice but to reduce their existing workforce. Layoffs can occur when the company can no longer maintain its existing staff. Downsizing might also occur when a company merges with another business and now has redundant positions or departments.

Companies need to balance the staff they retain with their revenue or risk insolvency. Letting go of many people at once can sometimes be all that is necessary to pull a company out of a financial slump. When that happens, inevitably some of the people let go feel that the decision was unfair or possibly a wrongful termination. In certain situations, there could be justification for those concerns.

Some companies will use downsizing or restructuring as a thinly-veiled excuse to discriminate against certain workers. Workers over the age of 40, people of certain racial backgrounds and workers of different genders may feel like their employer unfairly targeted them during recent layoffs or downsizing. How can you establish whether or not your employer engaged in discrimination when they let you go?

Was your employer transparent about retention criteria?

Some companies will have workers perform tests as part of a downsizing operation. Others will conduct performance reviews. Those that have unionized workers might make decisions based solely on seniority with the company.

When there aren’t clear criteria that led to the termination of different workers, it can be easier for the company to hide inappropriate behavior as downsizing. If there wasn’t clear criteria for whom the company kept and let go, if they let go of a disproportionate number of people from a particular protected category or if some of the people terminated had the best sales, attendance or performance records, those might all be warning signs of systemic discrimination.

Employers can’t discriminate against specific groups of workers

Some people working in management or human resources may not recognize their own biases. They could go through the process of deciding whom to fire without realizing that everyone belongs to the same ethnic group, religion or gender.

If the company doesn’t have protections in place to avoid someone’s biases impacting the careers of others, the victims of that discrimination may be able to take legal action against the company.