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When can a layoff be wrongful termination?

On Behalf of | Nov 7, 2023 | EMPLOYMENT LAW (EMPLOYEE) - Wrongful Termination

A job loss is often a source of hardship, but not all terminations have the same impact on workers. For example, a layoff is different than an outright firing. It says less about the performance of one worker and more about the economic situation for the company letting them go.

Unlike a job termination, a layoff might potentially be temporary. The company can recall workers to return to their jobs after a layoff if its financial circumstances improve. Some companies lay off workers annually due to predictable changes in the market and then hire them back when the market improves.

Whether the layoffs are temporary or permanent, employers should use reasonable metrics for deciding who to include in the layoff. Sometimes, workers laid off by their employers are actually victims of wrongful termination.

What is wrongful termination?

There are many situations that might constitute wrongful termination. Employers should not consider the protected characteristics of employees when deciding whom to lay off. Layoffs may be wrongful when members of a certain racial group, religion or race lose their jobs at a disproportionate rate compared with other employees at the company.

Additionally, layoffs can sometimes be a way for a company to hide retaliation. They may lay off everyone who participated in an attempt to unionize or someone who recently reported sexual harassment. Workers who spot concerning trends when looking at which employees the company laid off and which ones they retained may be in a position to take action against the business for wrongful termination.

Holding companies accountable for considering protected characteristics or protected workplace activity when making decisions about layoffs can help people get their jobs back, get lost compensation and hold businesses accountable.