- An employer's detailed layoff plans were sufficient to defeat a worker's claim of discrimination following her termination (Lacey v. Norac, Inc., No. 18-1947 (8th Cir. July 30, 2019)).
- Valerie Lacey, an African American woman who handled HR and purchasing support, claimed her employer let her go for not supporting the company when she refused to sign an affidavit in another woman's discrimination charge. The employer contended that Lacey was let go as part of a company-wide restructuring and submitted several documents showing its restructuring plan.
- The 8th Circuit upheld the lower court's summary judgment ruling for the employer because Lacey's case was based entirely on speculation, and she failed to show that the employer's reason for her termination was pretextual. Her main argument was that because some of the documents were not dated, they were created in anticipation of litigation. But the employer's evidence included memos prepared before the affidavit incident, demonstrating that it had already planned to let Lacey go. The court also pointed out that, in keeping with the restructuring plan, an employee who had signed an affidavit was also laid off.
The court sided with the employer because it was able to present detailed plans about the layoffs. However, a purported corporate restructuring can sometimes suggest discrimination, especially if the members of one group seem to make up the majority of the workers who are let go. Employers can avoid this by taking advantage of certain best practices, experts have said:
- Document everything from promotions to layoffs and job interviews to performance reviews.
- Train managers. Have policies in place that let employees know you are an equal opportunity employer, implement those policies and provide a means for employees to report incidents.
- Re-assess hiring operations. Make sure the hiring criteria does not exclude older workers, minority workers, women or employees in other protected groups, either directly or indirectly.
In addition, employers shouldn't "hoard information," Jordan George, head of leadership and talent development at CFE Federal Credit Union, previously told HR Dive. Communication about (and during) a disruption should be empathetic, open and honest, with all parties looped in.
In addition to designating a key communicator, employers and HR can craft "employee communication guiding principles" that include a list of things to do, say and avoid before and during a corporate change event, other experts have recommended. Of course, employees will need time to process information about the disruption and will have questions, so HR and management should be prepared to address them.