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Could downsizing be a form of discrimination?

On Behalf of | Dec 20, 2023 | Employment Discrimination

When a company has to downsize, its owner or CEO may express remorse. They may say that they wish they didn’t have to let people go, but there’s no choice. It’s just a financial decision to keep the company out of the red.

The implication here is the downsizing couldn’t be discriminatory. The company isn’t trying to get rid of workers who are in a protected class because the owner would rather not fire anyone. This isn’t a decision they’re making. They just have no choice. But is this really true?

Discrimination certainly happens during downsizing

Never assume that downsizing isn’t discriminatory just because of the type of layoff that is happening. The act of downsizing may be a business decision, but the way in which it is handled absolutely could be a violation of an employee’s rights.

For instance, say that a company has 20% African-American workers and 80% Caucasian workers. The CEO finds out that they need to downsize the workforce by about 15%. They decide to let the vast majority of the African-American workers go, while keeping almost everyone else.

This is still discrimination, even if the reason for the downsizing did start with financial problems. When companies decide to downsize, they have to ensure that they do it in a way that affects all of their employees equally. Downsizing itself is legal, but it can’t be used as a way to disguise discrimination or target specific groups of employees.

When employees feel that they have been targeted or discriminated against, it is wise to seek legal guidance. Depending on the ins and outs of their circumstances, they may be entitled to compensation and/or alternative forms of recourse.