Layoff seems to target certain type of employee. But may not qualify as discrimination. Might there be a case?

Asked almost 2 years ago - Los Angeles, CA

Big utility company's IT dept is downsizing by 20% (about 300 people) and outsourcing these jobs. I am one of 3 people in my group who were laid off. I am 60 years old, the other 2 are in their 50's. I have worked at company for two years. We 3 are sometimes more "outspoken" in that we identify task-related problems and get things done. We are active, while others are lazy, and I feel we were singled out because we challenged the lazy atmosphere mgmt has enjoyed, or mid-mgmt were trying to protect their positions.

I was told my position was being eliminated, but a coworker told me they actually replaced me with a person from another dept.

Smells fishy. Appears my position wasn't actually downsized.
Wondering if there could be a possible wrongful termination case here.

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Kristine S Karila

    Contributor Level 16


    Lawyers agree


    Answered . It is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his or her age (over 40) and other protected classes: age, race, gender, religion, medical condition, pregnancy, etc., but it is not unlaw ful to discriminate against a person or persons BECAUSE they are "outspoken" about tasks, etc., unless they are being "outspoken" about a violation of their legal rights (example: overtime, etc.)

  2. Craig Trent Byrnes


    Contributor Level 15


    Lawyer agrees


    Answered . It is illegal in California to get rid of older workers because they are older, or because they make more money as a group. Employers cannot use a reduction in force as an excuse to rid itself of older workers.

    The challenge is in the proof. The employer can't simply rely on a lay off; it must explain why it chose the people it did. If it can articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its decision, the burden then shifts to you to prove that its reason is pretextual. That is usually done by showing that the reasons they put forward are not true.

    It is also illegal to lay off that many workers without giving 60 days notice. I assume they gave you proper notice, but if they did not, they may be a violation of Cal-WARN.

    It is not illegal to lay you off for "identify[ing] task related problems, or for "challeng[ing] the lazy atmosphere." Those would be illegal, although they would also be bad decisions.

    I hope this information is helpful to you.

    Craig T. Byrnes

    Disclaimer: Please be aware that I am not offering legal advice, nor forming an attorney-client relationship with... more
  3. Alden Jay Knisbacher

    Contributor Level 11

    Answered . A layoff cannot be used as a pretext for age discrimination. These cases are tough because the employer claims that the employee was laid off, and companies are allowed to lay off employees. If you can show that there really was not a layoff -- another employee took your same job duties, that goes a long ways towards proving pretext -- that the company's reason for the termination is false. If you have enough evidence that the layoff is pretextual, you may be able to convince (first the judge) and then a jury that the real reason for the termination was age discrimination.

  4. Justin G. Randolph

    Contributor Level 16


    Lawyer agrees


    Answered . To best determine that it is necessary to know the characteristics of the individual that replaced you. For example, if they replaced you with someone much younger than you it could be age discrimination. Do you have that information?

    My answering this question does not form an attorney-client relationship. Always retain a qualified attorney... more

Related Topics


Employment law governs employee pay, non-discrimination policies, employment classifications, and hiring and firing at the federal, state, and local levels.

Age discrimination in the workplace

Age discrimination in the workplace is the unfavorable treatment of workers due to their age. This typically involves discrimination against older workers.

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