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April 2008 Newsletter - How to limit legal exposure during downsizing

Limit legal exposure during downsizing

Magna HR
How to Limit Legal Exposure during Downsizing

By Adrienne Fox
Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
HR Magazine, April 2008

Profits fall, and staff must be cut.  Managers convene and start making decisions on who should be laid off.  They may say things like, “Mark is not really that great of a worker, let’s put him on the chopping block.”  Or “Sue hasn’t been as productive since she started taking intermittent Family and Medical Leave Act leave.”  Or, “I know Brenda hasn’t been meeting her sales goals lately, but I have a gut feeling that she’s going to be a better performer in the long run than Bob, who has been her a long time.”  The managers come up with a so-called “blacklist” of names for layoffs and write it all down.

Only then does someone say, “Let’s contact human resources” and ask if there are any problems with the list.

The above scenario demonstrates exactly what shouldn’t happen but often does when planning layoffs, says Michael J. Underwood, an employment lawyer at Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur in Columbus, Ohio, adding “You’ve already dug a hole, and you have to hope it’s an OK hole.”

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