Can Layoffs Be a Form of Discrimination?
Can Layoffs Be a Form of Discrimination?

Can Layoffs Be a Form of Discrimination?

When the economy stalls or takes a turn downward, layoffs generally aren’t far behind. There are instances, however, when layoffs are deemed a form of discrimination. While every situation is unique and must be evaluated in accordance with the circumstances involved, being let go by one’s employer is sometimes identified as unlawful discrimination. Employees who believe they’ve been laid off unfairly should consult with an experienced California discrimination attorney.

Many Layoffs Are within the Employer’s Legal Rights

Employers have the right to lay off an employee or otherwise terminate their employment in relation to inferior job performance, but the matter does not end here. Employers often need to make critical financial decisions that are designed to support economic growth, and this can include lawful layoffs that are based on restructuring the company or on reducing the workforce. 

Some employers, however, are not above laying employees off for reasons that are not within their legal rights while passing their actions off as an attempt to cut costs or as a means of addressing employee misconduct or underperformance.   

Protections in the State of California

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) makes it unlawful for employers to lay off employees based on their inclusion in a protected class that addresses any of the following:

  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender, gender identity, and gender expression
  • Pregnancy, childbirth, and related health complications
  • Age – for those who are at least 40
  • Religion, which includes religious dress and related grooming practices 
  • Race, color of skin, ancestry, and national origin, including language 
  • Marital status
  • Medical conditions, including genetic characteristics and genetic information, as well as cancer or any history of cancer
  • Disability 
  • Request for family care leave, for leave related to the employee’s own serious health concerns, or for pregnancy disability leave
  • Military or veteran status

There are also federal protections in place, and both state and federal laws prohibit laying off employees in retaliation for complaining about discrimination or harassment on the job. It can be very challenging to link a large-scale layoff directly to claims of personal discrimination or retaliation, which makes working with a seasoned discrimination attorney critical. 

When Layoffs Are a Form of Discrimination

There are times when layoffs make economic sense for employers and have nothing to do with discrimination. These layoffs are guided by rules and restrictions of their own. The primary reasons for layoffs include all the following:

  • An attempt to cut costs
  • A decline in demand for services or products
  • An economic downturn
  • Lack of work 
  • A relocation
  • A change in work requirements or job positions

When an employer lays one or two employees off, and the employees happen to belong to a protected class, the matter of discrimination is a natural concern. When employers, however, use mass layoffs to mask the few that are based on discrimination, the matter becomes more legally challenging.

Speak to an Experienced California Discrimination Attorney Today

The distinguished California discrimination attorneys at Minnis & Smallets have the legal skill, experience, and drive to skillfully defend our clients’ rights – in pursuit of advantageous claim outcomes. Learn more by contacting us today.

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