Nancy Gunzenhauser Popper, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s New York office, was quoted in Law360 Employment Authority, in “How Employers Can Avoid Bias in Recession-Driven Layoffs,” by Anne Cullen. (Following is an excerpt – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

Many businesses are already beginning to cull their ranks to weather an anticipated recession, and while reductions in force may help a company's bottom line, they risk undermining diversity and sparking discrimination claims.

Economic experts predict that the U.S. will enter a recession next year, and worker-side attorneys say companies sometimes wield a bleak economic forecast as a cover for firing someone for an illegal reason, like because of their gender, race, sex or other protected characteristic. …

The issue often finds its way into the courts, as management-side employment lawyers say lawsuits making discrimination claims frequently follow reductions in force.

"There are often claims of discrimination following layoffs, whether those are individual terminations or when it's in these large groups," said Nancy Gunzenhauser Popper, an Epstein Becker Green member who counsels employers. "Even if the stated reasoning is not that someone was chosen for an improper reason, we see an uptick in claims following larger group layoffs."

For companies that must make cuts, here five steps they can take to protect workplace diversity and mitigate the risk of facing a discrimination lawsuit. …

Don't Forget Leave Law Protections

Employees who are on leave have federal protections as well, as the Family and Medical Leave Act bars companies from sacking someone because they're using FMLA time to manage a medical issue or care for a family member.

If a team member taking FMLA leave is on the termination list, experts said companies need to make sure that their rationale for letting that person go is sound. A company can legally fire someone using FMLA time only if the worker would have been affected without being on leave.

"It's important to be mindful of people who are within various protected leaves of absences, in addition to those who have protected characteristics," said Epstein's Popper. "It's an important thing to be thinking about during that selection process."

Jump to Page

Privacy Preference Center

When you visit any website, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. This information might be about you, your preferences or your device and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to. The information does not usually directly identify you, but it can give you a more personalized web experience. Because we respect your right to privacy, you can choose not to allow some types of cookies. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings. However, blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer.

Strictly Necessary Cookies

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems. They are usually only set in response to actions made by you which amount to a request for services, such as setting your privacy preferences, logging in or filling in forms. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not then work. These cookies do not store any personally identifiable information.

Performance Cookies

These cookies allow us to count visits and traffic sources so we can measure and improve the performance of our site. They help us to know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.