A previous post on this blog talked about how a major international company recently found itself in legal hot water because of its recent layoffs. Specifically, former employees over 40 have alleged the company engaged in age discrimination by systemically weeding out older employees via layoffs while actively recruiting younger employees.
The story illustrates some important points about layoffs that Los Angeles employees should be aware of.
While layoffs are a reality for California businesses just as they are in the rest of the country, an employer has an obligation to make sure its workforce reduction complies with both state and federal laws, specifically laws prohibiting discrimination. The fact an employer is letting employees go for business reasons rather than for some specific cause or performance issues is simply not an excuse about
Generally speaking, this means that an employer will need to lay off a group of employees based on some objective criteria that is not discriminatory. For instance, an employer can legally decide to layoff all employees who have fewer than two years of service to the company since one's length of service, in theory, does not have anything to do with one's age, race or the like.
However, having objective criteria for a layoff is only the first step. An employer also has an obligation to be sure that their criteria isn't going to have a disproportionate impact on older workers or, for that matter, workers of another protected status. For example, if a layoff is going to result in mostly older workers being let go, it probably won't pass legal muster, even if the criteria are objectively neutral.
Regrettably, employers often dress up layoffs as pretexts for age discrimination. Los Angeles employees who suspect these sorts of tricks have cost them their jobs may have legal options available to them.