Keeping Less-Qualified Co-Workers after a Layoff

When layoffs happen, there are usually very strong (and mixed) feelings. Those who are kept may feel a mixture of relief and a bit of survivor’s guilt. Those who are laid off are almost always sad, a little angry, and probably worried about the future, too, for good reason.

But when an employer only retains less-qualified co-workers after a layoff, then those feelings might turn to suspicion that the real reason behind the layoffs was discrimination.

What Does It Mean?

Usually, it’s the older employees who are the most qualified for any given job. It’s natural that they have more experience, more skill, and more understanding. But they also typically cost more than younger, less-qualified employees.

Sometimes, a company is willing to sacrifice quality work product in favor of lesser expenses and a “stronger” bottom-line. When an employer lets go only the older employees and keeps only the less-qualified younger ones, that’s a strong sign that discrimination is in play, and whatever reason was given for the layoffs was a pre-text.

What Are Some Examples of This?

In the case of Seifaee v. Areva, Inc., Dr. Seifaee, aged 61, was 25-year employee of the company with decades of engineering experience. When the company suffered a number of business setbacks, they decided that layoffs were necessary. A number of older employees, including Dr. Seifaee, started receiving poor grades on their reviews, despite evidence that they were performing adequately. The company ranked all employees based on their reviews, and decided on who would be laid off. When the layoffs happened, all 14 of the employees let go, including Dr. Seifaee, were over the age of 55 and and 14 were over the age of 60, despite there being younger employees also with significant performance issues. The courts found that the poor reviews were a mere pre-text for their termination, and that Dr. Seifaee and his colleagues had been victims of discrimination.

In the case of Capomaccio v. Bull HN Info. Sys.,, similarly found that the employer had decided to terminate only older employees, while retaining younger, less experienced employees who also had lower job performance rankings. The is was another case where performance reviews were nothing more than a pre-text to cover up for age discrimination.

Go Back To The List of Pre-Texts


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