Is it legal to lay off employees just to save on their benefits, or because they have been employed for many years?

Question: I have been an employee for 30 years with this company. Recently 40 employees were laid off. Two days later, one of those who were laid off was asked back, but without benefits. I think some people are being laid off just because of their many years of employment, and because of the cost of their benefits, even when the employee was excellent. Is this legal?

Long Term, Loyal & Wondering
Tulare, California

Answer: Unfortunately, in every place I know of in this country, what you describe is not illegal. I definitely agree with you – it’s hard to believe this could be legal – but as far as I know, it is legal in every state.

Let me share with you a way of looking at this: In the relationship we call “friendship” there are no legal rules of behavior. In the relationship we call “marriage” there are many rules of behavior. In this country, employment is more like “friendship” than it is like “marriage.”

Sure, there are more and more “rules” and “laws” about how, when and why you can lay people off, but I’ve never heard of a law in any state that says an employer can’t decide to let someone go because they’ve been working for that employer for a long time, or just to hire someone else cheaper, or who will take less benefits.

I’m sorry I couldn’t be more helpful, but I do thank you for writing in, and hope you will continue to read our blog – in lots of other ways, we do show employees that there are many things they can do to be less vulnerable to employers’ unfairness.

Best, Al Sklover

© 2009 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.