Employers Must Not Discriminate in Layoffs
Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) May 6, 2014 - Despite most states adhering to an “at will” arrangement for workers, laying off employees is regulated by law.
“Many employers do not always realize that laying off workers is strictly regulated by law and if those rules are not followed according to a crystal clear layoff policy, they run the risk of being sued,” explains Timothy Coffey, a respected Chicago employment attorney.
These days, with the tough economy, there are many companies forced into mass layoffs to make ends meet and keep their company afloat for the long-term. If a business with more than 100 workers needs to implement a mass layoff, federal law states explicitly that those affected employees must receive 60 days’ notice. Notice is given under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. There are certain exceptions to this rule, but in general, the law is applicable if an entire company is shuttered for more than six months, if 50 or more workers are laid off over a 30-day period, if the workers total at least one-third of the complete workforce and the layoff period is more than six months.
“Any employer that uses a layoff notice to discriminate against workers may be sued. Discrimination may include protected characteristics such as age, skin color, being over the age of 40, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and gender,” Coffey says. “For instance, if 40 percent of a company’s workers are female and 70 percent of the female workforce is laid off, the women could possibly file a case for sex discrimination.” Employers may have a defense if they can demonstrate that the workers were all employed in a failing department of the business. They must also give workers a written and dated layoff notification, a reason/justification for the layoff and explain how the reason for the layoff affects the business and why certain individuals or groups of people, were laid off.
When workers are hired, some may be asked to sign a contract, or written agreement, that guarantees employment for a designated period of time. If the worker is then laid off, the employer may be liable for breach of contract, which may include penalties for that breach. It is also best to check if there is a collective bargaining agreement in place, one that limits an employer’s ability to lay off workers without some form of compensation.
“In reality, a newly hired worker should not sign anything before they discuss the contents of any documents provided by the employer with an employment attorney. If you don’t understand what you are signing, you may be giving up some of your legal rights later, should something happen,” outlines Coffey. For individuals that have been laid off and feel that it was not done in accordance with the proper rules and regulations, speak to a qualified employment attorney to determine what legal rights are applicable.
THE COFFEY LAW OFFICE, P.C.
351 W. Hubbard Street, Suite 602
Chicago, IL 60654
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