Even with a red-hot economy in California, businesses will often look for ways to reduce or eliminate costs through reorganization or downsizing. Employers have always used layoffs as a convenient means of shedding workers who don’t measure up to their standards. Outright firing them opens up the company to possible litigation, so finding a financial or organizational reason to lay off personnel is seen as less contentious. But in a non-union employment environment, businesses aren’t required by contract to let workers go based on seniority. In short, in an at-will employment world, the company can selectively lay off any employee they want.
When does discrimination become part of the picture?
In one case from New York, however, workers at have been able to show that Finra was using cost-cutting layoffs as a way to shed older workers. In most employment environments, workers with more experience (read ‘older workers’) are also the ones who are earning the most in salary, commissions, bonuses and benefits. Employers who determine to cut those employment expenses by selecting the highest salaries are, in effect, typically engaging in age discrimination. On paper, the companies can show that the salaries paid are no longer commensurate with the value provided. The net result of the decision, though, is to put older workers out the door based simply on the fact that they have been given fair pay raises each year. In short, laying off workers based on salaries that have escalated over the years is the same as laying off workers who have grown older.
Fighting age discrimination
While it is fair to accept that employers have a right to look for cost-cutting measures, there can be no excuse or tolerance for violating a worker’s civil rights in the workplace. If you are an older worker who has benefited from annual pay raises and promotions over the years, it is possible you may find yourself in the crosshairs. Here are some recommendations from a leading online business support website article:
- Continue to remain active in your network of friends, colleagues and business associates. Be proactive with regular contacts. When you are gainfully employed is the time to start building up your network for a possible layoff.
- Don’t hide your talents under a bushel at work. The more active you are when sharing your experience, the more your experience will be valued. It’s easy to slip into “protection” mode and hide your head in your cubicle. Being invisible only makes it easier for someone to think they don’t need you around at all.
- Keep your image up to the highest standards. The more polished you look, the more noticeable you will be in the workplace. Remember: Styles may change, but standards must remain.
- Embrace new technology and processes. Millennials are wrong when they say the older generation doesn’t understand technology. Never forget that baby boomers invented most of it. Take the lead in learning (and teaching) younger workers.
If you do find yourself put out of a job and think your age was a factor, you have a right to protect your rights under state and federal age discrimination laws. Call our offices for a free consultation.