How To Prevent a Day in Court

December 1, 1996
To avoid the potential of employee lawsuits with a downsizing effort, HR professionals should:

  • Document the means and methods followed in the downsizing to show they were logical and consistent.

  • Thoroughly investigate and document the alternatives to downsizing.

  • Reduce the workforce as much as possible with voluntary separation and early-retirement programs.

  • Make sure departing employees sign separation agreements in which they agree to accept extra compensation in exchange for a waiver of discrimination claims.

  • Analyze the pre-reduction-in-force (RIF) workforce by race, sex and age distribution, gathering these statistics by department, job groups and salary grades. Then, prior to laying off any employees, collect the same data on employees who've been designated for layoff to make sure the layoff doesn't have an adverse impact on any particular group of employees.

  • Provide training to help managers understand how to objectively identify jobs and rank employees for possible layoff

  • Train managers in how to sensitively communicate the RIF to employees.

  • Provide honest and thorough communication to employees about the layoff.

  • Conduct exit interviews with all departing employees.

  • Provide post-termination benefits such as outplacement assistance, job retraining, recall rights and medical insurance coverage.

Personnel Journal, December 1996, Vol. 75, No. 12, p. 34.