Posts Tagged ‘Age Discrimination in the Workplace’

Hiring During Layoffs

Friday, June 12th, 2009

layoffs on employee screening blogCan employers hire staff if they are in the middle of layoffs? While there is nothing inherently wrong about it, hiring new employees after (or while) letting other staff go can open the door to big problems. Your ex-employees will surely find out—and will look for any holes in your procedures and the reasons they were let go.

Even though it is risky, there is no reason not to hire new staff in spite of layoffs. Proper planning and care in procedures makes a big difference. Microsoft announced big layoffs this year: a decrease of 5,000 jobs over 18 months. But the net loss in jobs was reported to be only 2,000 to 3,000. Why? Because Microsoft planned on hiring for new, key positions at the same time they were eliminating the old ones.

At Dell, recently laid off employees filed a $500 million class-action lawsuit, claiming that older and female staff were targeted in a round of layoffs that affected 8,900 workers. The employees claim performance evaluations were manipulated and that they were told that no other positions were available when job openings existed. Employers must be clear about reasons for reductions and must ensure that no group is singled out—or even appears to be.

But keep in mind, too, that although it is illegal to target older workers for layoffs, it is within an employer’s rights to base reductions on salary—which often means the older, tenured staff members are more likely to be let go.

For most employers, decisions around hiring and laying off employees are necessary to stay viable—and sometimes must be made at the same time. It doesn’t make sense to ignore areas of your business that are currently strong, and need additional staff, just because you must reduce in other areas. If certain sectors of your business have the potential to become profit centers, you should reinforce them as needed.

A reasonable approach might be to eliminate positions, then re-categorize or modify job descriptions, establish the new positions, and hire for them. And as always, the safest way to ensure you are within the law is to consult an HR attorney before taking any action.