We Protect Workers

Can lay-offs or downsizing be a form of discrimination?

Your employer can terminate you for many reasons, provided that they don’t violate your basic rights under federal and state law. Technically, companies in California don’t even need a reason to fire one of their workers. The at-will employment laws on the books in California allow workers to quit at any time without notice and companies can fire workers without even giving a cause.

Companies have an obligation to their investors and shareholders to turn a profit, which sometimes means that executives and management need to make difficult decisions. Downsizing and layoffs can be a way to streamline a company’s workforce and keep operating costs more manageable.

While it is legal to downsize the workforce and legal to terminate workers for any reason whatsoever, it is not okay to use terminations or lay-offs as a way to discriminate against certain workers.

Downsizing can bring out biases

\When human resources or management team members need to make decisions about who stays at a company and who goes, they may allow their personal biases to influence the decisions they make about the company.

For example, if all of the women get let go from one department or all of the workers over a certain age, that could be a sign of bias and discrimination factoring into the decisions about who stays with the company and who the company terminates. If a business doesn’t have the right protections in place to prevent such wide-scale discrimination, then it may face claims from the workers that it lets go for an illegal reason.

How do you fight back against discrimination on the job?

When you believe it was your religion, race, age, your sex or gender, or your disability that led to your firing rather than your job performance or necessity on the part of your employer, you can hold the company accountable for that.

Workers unfairly terminated because of discrimination at their workplace could potentially bring a claim against the company and either seek their jobs back or hold the company financially accountable for the impact the termination has had on their lives. Identifying employer misconduct and speaking up can help you fight back after a wrongful termination affects your career.