Many Employers Are Terminating Employees for Discriminatory Reasons Under the Mask of the COVID-19 Pandemic Reduction in Force.
As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to require shelter in place rules across the country, many businesses must lay off and terminate employees to stay afloat. Unfortunately, many of these employers are using this opportunity to discriminate against employees for race, religion, pregnancy, disability, age, national origin, for complaining about illegal activity or any other protected status under the law.
Most employers have the best intentions. They are reducing their workforce with the hopes of hiring people back. They are following the law and genuinely terminating employees for financial reasons, such as loss of revenue. The employer does not have the work for the selected employees and their positions.
Other employers are violating employment discrimination laws. They are choosing who to fire or lay off based on reasons related to religion, gender, age, disability, or other discriminatory reasons.
What Is Employment Discrimination?
Employment discrimination occurs when an employee is treated unfairly or harassed because of a protected reason, A protected reason, or protected class, under the law is any of the following:
- National Origin
- Gender Identity
- Sexual Orientation
- Military Status
- Veteran Status
- Citizenship/Immigration Status
- Familial Status
What Laws Protect Employees from Discrimination?
The categories mentioned above are known as protected classes. Several laws protect employees from any form of discrimination based on protected classes. Some of these laws include:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act
- Americans with Disabilities Act
- Bankruptcy Protection Act
- The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights
Many employers are lawfully laying off or firing employees while business has slowed. COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders have made it virtually impossible for most companies to operate as usual. However, there are signs that your employer is using the Coronavirus reduction in force to terminate employees illegally. Some signs to look for may include:
- Terminations target employees who are over the age of 40 only, no matter their job function or department
- Employees requesting Paid Family Leave Under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act are terminated
- Asian-American employees are laid off indefinitely
- Pregnant employees are the first to be terminated during the reduction in force
- Any employee on temporary disability is terminated due to lack of work
- Medical personnel complaining to the medical board about lack of proper Coronavirus protection equipment are fired when a medical facility is reducing workforce (medical imaging center, doctor’s office, physical therapist office, etc.)
- Any employee who filed a sexual harassment complaint over the past six months is terminated under the guise of Coronavirus layoffs
These examples are only a few ways in which employers may unlawfully discriminate as the means to determine who should be laid off or terminated during this time. No employer will blatantly say terminations or layoffs are based on these reasons. All will say the terminations were necessary because there was a lack of work, but this may just be a pretext for the real discriminatory reason.
Layoffs or terminations may indeed be necessary during this unprecedented time. However, people should be laid off or fired for unbiased reasons.
Can Victims of Discrimination in Firing Sue Their Employers?
Yes! Discriminatory firing is a form of wrongful termination. Victims of wrongful termination have the right to challenge and sue their employers. If your employer used the Coronavirus to cover up a wrongful termination, you could file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This step will allow you the right to file a complaint in federal court against your employer for wrongful termination and discrimination. It’s a good idea to first consult with an experienced employment lawyer.
Many states maintain laws against discrimination in the workplace as well. Therefore, if you would rather file your complaint in state court, you may contact your local state regulatory agency to file a charge against your employer.
A successful wrongful termination lawsuit can result in the following remedies:
- Reinstatement of employment
- Lost Wages
- Pain and Suffering
- Attorney’s Fees
- Emotional Distress
- Punitive Damages
Even during Coronavirus layoffs and uncertainty, employers must be held responsible for their actions. They are prohibited from using a pandemic to fire people for discriminatory reasons. Even if your employer files bankruptcy due to a drop in business, you may still have a good case since discrimination cases may often carry individual liability, and, very often, discrimination claims are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.
Do Not Wait to Stand Up for Your Rights!
Were you terminated or laid off by your employer due to Coronavirus concerns? Were you singled out for termination because you are a member of a protected class? Do you think your employer terminated you because you reported illegal actions?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, the employment discrimination and wrongful termination attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group can help. Contact us today at (800) 807-2209 for a free consultation.
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