Layoffs: Are you discriminating? June 1st, 2009
As many companies are being forced to make layoffs due to budget cuts, HR Managers may be unintentionally discriminating against employees during the decision-making process of who should stay and who will go. When managers are required to make cost-effective layoffs, multiple factors must be considered when making the best decision. However, managers will often make the mistake of reflecting on the employee’s personal life and obligations during the decision-making process, which will blur the line between boss and friend. Most managers are encouraged to get to know their employees on a personal level in order to increase compatibility and connection, but it is difficult to leave that personal attachment on the side when making a layoff decision. It is common to hear, ‘Well Frank has a family to provide for and sending his son to college, but Judy is single and still young enough to find new opportunities.’ Although, this thinking may have one employee’s best interest in mind, discriminating based off of an employee’s personal life and not his or her work performance is unethical. Decisions should be made off of productivity, decrease in sales, etc.
Not only does discrimination take place due to the employee’s personal life, but there is a common two-fold discrimination that takes place due to age and experience. Companies either look at young, inexperienced employees as either cheap labor or an extra burden. On the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, companies may view employees with more experience as either valuable or too expensive. It may seem easier to layoff a new employee for ‘lack of experience,’ but there has been a rise in age discrimination lawsuits from professionals new to their career and from others that are several years into the business world. No matter how an HR professional justifies the layoff, it is crucial that the final decision was based off of performance and work capability, not personal circumstances.
The best way to evaluate employees for a layoff is strictly based on performance evaluation, financial contribution versus cost, and quantitative measures such as meeting project deadlines. When analyzing your company statistics in order to determine what measures must be taken in order to keep your company prosperous, consider the direction your company is headed towards, department growth, and specific criteria for layoffs. Seeking legal advice, re-reading your companies policies, and reviewing up-to-date paperwork on your employees are crucial steps in the layoff process. Utilize your personal attachment to your employees by showing empathy and sincerity during the layoff conversation, not during the decision-making process. Layoffs are never easy on either party, but with preparation, a solid foundation for the decision, and genuine concern, your company can remain positive during this difficult situation. Layoffs are surrounded by many emotions, which is why it is crucial to follow standard procedures to ensure your company’s compliance with federal and state labor laws.
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