Discriminatory Decision-making in Workplace Hiring and Firing

In August 2016, four former employees filed a class action lawsuit against HP, Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprises for age discrimination, claiming that they were laid off as part of a restructuring of the company to “transform itself from an ‘old’ company into a ‘younger’ operation.” Their firing came shortly after CEO Meg Whitman publicly stated that HP needed to “reshape and recalibrate” its labor diamond to a labor pyramid by including more younger people, and that “if you don’t have a whole host of young people who are learning how to do delivery or learning how to do these kinds of things, you will be in real challenges.”  Large technology corporations, in Silicon Valley and beyond, are facing tough questions on how to stay relevant and competitive when their competitors’ are staffed by twenty-somethings and offer exceptional perks.  Meg Whitman’s concerns were arguably fair. According to the class action, her solution was not.

Companies that are thinking about laying off some of their workforce, for any reason, should take notice of the HP lawsuit and be cognizant of the potential liability their company could face for similar discrimination claims. Federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating against their employees or job applicants based on that person’s:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • National origin
  • Age (40 or above)
  • Genetic information

Businesses are entitled to make hiring or firing decisions based on factors such as a candidate’s performance, technical qualifications, work experience, and educational background. When a business considers cultural fit in its hiring or firing decision, such as age or race, that business could be sued and found liable for workplace discrimination.

Is your business planning on making staffing changes in the New Year? The labor and employment professionals at Royse Law Firm can help your business create hiring and firing decisions and policies that are in line with state, federal, and local employment, labor, and discrimination laws.

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Erica Riel-Carden