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Severance package in mass layoff at center of discrimination suit

In 2010, a company had a mass layoff. In all, 57 workers were affected under the so-called reduction in forces. Ohio employment law attorneys are aware that companies may try to hide discriminatory layoffs within a larger layoff. When a mass layoff is involved, detecting the discriminatory practices can be more difficult to uncover.

In the 2010 situation in a Midwestern state, the workers were offered severance packages associated with the mass termination. All of the packages were essentially the same. In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that the only differences between the severance packages involved the name listed at the top of the severance agreement and amount of money each individual worker was to receive.

But, one worker had previously made a complaint with the EEOC against the company. The company discovered that prior issue and reportedly rescinded the severance package that had previously been offered to the worker.

The company is now facing a workplace discrimination lawsuit over the severance packages offered to the terminated workers. The EEOC says that the agreements appear to have been intended to deter all of the employees from lodging any potential discrimination charge against the company.

We have discussed a number issues related to retaliation in the employment law context. However, the recent civil rights violation allegations do not fall squarely within the idea of a retaliation claim (which is among the most common form of employment discrimination lawsuit in recent years). The idea does run somewhat parallel to a retaliation complaint.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against workers for raising issues related to civil rights laws--any other system would stand in the way of rooting out workplace discrimination. Workers should not have to fear losing their job for exercising workplace rights granted to them under state and federal laws.

The EEOC says that the company essentially used the severance packages to deter future potential discrimination complaints. In essence, the lawsuit alleges that the business interfered with the rights of workers by attempted to deter possible future charges.

Source: EEOC, “EEOC Sues Cardiac Science Corporation for Retaliation,” Sept. 26, 2013

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