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Job Bias Claims on the Rise: Legal Termination Info for Employees and Employers

Getting the Pink SlipThe job outlook has been tough lately. The economy lost 8.2 million jobs in the recession, and employers still remain hesitant to hire. In early September, 9.6 percent of the nation’s workers were unemployed and many employers are still cutting their workforces. Obviously, nobody likes a pink slip. But in a recession, job cuts are sometimes the only way a company can survive. Regardless of the economy, there are other times when job cuts are necessary, like when an employee is under-performing. However, there are also times when job cuts are unjust, like when businesses terminate employees out of bias and discrimination.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “for the six months that ended April 30, more than 70,000 people filed claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying they had suffered job discrimination, a 60% increase in bias claims compared with the same period a year earlier.” Why such a precipitous increase? Have employers turned sour against employees in tough times? Attorney Cliff Palefsky believes this to be the case, saying, “in a down economy, companies look to replace older workers with younger workers who they can hire at lower salaries.” Attorney Mark Cheskin thinks otherwise; for him, “employees are having a tougher time getting replacement jobs, and so they are likelier to sue.” If a fired employee finds new employment quickly, that employee will likely shrug off any perceived injustice as water under the bridge. Not so when the fired employee has months of unemployment to contemplate his or her termination.

For Employers — Legal Steps for Terminating Employees

How employers handle hiring and firing determines their exposure to these claims. As an employer, if you have an employee who is not meeting your standards, it is important to issue them an Employee Warning Letter. If you later terminate the employee, he/she will have a difficult time suing you or causing a labor dispute because you gave them ample, written warning to improve their work. If the problem can’t be resolved, tell the employee you intend to write a Letter of Termination so that he/she has the chance to resign and avoid having it appear on his/her record. If the employee’s performance does not improve, your Termination Notice should be concisely and objectively written, and should include the following:

  • A summary of the employee’s history with the company
  • Clear reasons for dismissal (if you don’t include all the reasons for dismissal in the letter, make sure to include them in your files)
  • A reminder of the terms and conditions of employment
  • Information concerning final paychecks, termination of health coverage, and inclusion of a benefits package

It is important to maintain a polite and respectful tone, while simultaneously sticking only to the facts of the termination of employment. Most importantly, be brief.

For Employees — How to Get Legal Help for Wrongful Termination

As an employee, if you feel that you have been wrongfully terminated, you can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC website has an online assessment tool to help you determine if the EEOC is the correct agency top assist you in filing a charge. The EEOC classifies discrimination according to the following types: age, disability, sex, genetics, national origin, pregnancy, race/color, religion, and retaliation. The time limit for filing a charge is generally 180 days. This deadline is extended to 300 days in certain circumstances. And Federal employees have a different timeline altogether. For a comprehensive calendar of filing deadlines, visit the EEOC website. Regardless of how much time you have to file, it is best to file as soon as possible.

Using appropriate legal forms can protect both employees and employers from legal liability when it comes to employment issues. If you have questions about employee discrimination or employment law, visit or find an employment attorney.

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