What does it take to lay off an employee?

Workers at Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge and six other LSU-affiliated hospitals recently received notices of upcoming layoffs. Such notices are required by employment law for public workers and are general in nature. They inform employees that layoffs will occur, but they don't specify the number of jobs that will be cut at each facility.

The layoffs are in response to severe state budget problems. Louisiana collected less revenue than expected when constructing its budget and had a number of unanticipated expenditures. As of mid-year, the budget is $251 million behind.

Governor Bobby Jindal's administration is seeking $29 million in cuts from the state hospital system. The cuts stem from lost federal funds LSU received for providing care to the poor and uninsured. The cash was being used to offset other cuts.

The notices the state provided to hospital employees are required under the state Civil Service rules. The state is required to give civil service employees notice of any personnel action that may impact their jobs, including mass layoffs.

According to LSU System Vice President, hundreds of the hospital system's nearly 7,000 employees will be laid off. In the coming weeks, LSU will be providing a detailed plan for layoffs to the Civil Service.

While not every business faces the same burdens to provide employees with notice of impending layoffs, every business -- private or public -- still has concerns it should take very seriously before making the decision to lay off employees.

One major concern faced by employers is retaliatory lawsuits for discrimination. It can cost a company a lot of money and time to defend against a discrimination lawsuit. Such litigation can also have serious consequences to the company's public reputation, which could negatively impact future hiring, contracts and overall business development.

Discriminatory layoffs are prohibited by federal, state and local laws. While the factors may vary somewhat from location to location, most state and local laws prohibit employers from considering age, gender, disability, race and national origin when making decisions to lay off an employee.

Another consideration employers must make is when, or if, to provide notice. Are you planning to close a plant or are you considering a mass layoff of at least 100 people? If so, even private employers are required to give notice to workers under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

These are only a few of the issues an employer must consider with regard to layoffs. Due to the complicated nature of employment law and how it affects private and public employers differently, it is important to discuss these matters with a business law attorney.

Source: The Advocate, "Layoffs begin at seven LSU hospitals," Marsha Shuler, Jan. 18, 2012

Source: bizjournal.com, "Legal issues complicate layoff policies," Tom Platt and Kevin Hamilton, April 22, 2001

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