Magazine article Personnel

Outplacement Counseling: Minimizing Legal Liability

Magazine article Personnel

Outplacement Counseling: Minimizing Legal Liability

Article excerpt

In these tough economic times, more and more companies are reducing their workforces. When these layoffs are coupled with the number of terminations that normally occur on a daily basis and the fact that displaced workers take longer than ever to secure new employment, employers face a more litigious group of employees than in previous years. Indeed, the average worker today has an attitude that they have nothing to lose by suing an employer.

Times have certainly changed. Years ago, workers often were afraid to commence legal actions against their employers for fear of retaliation. Terminated employees avoided lawsuits because they were afraid of being blackballed by their former employers and given poor references. But employees are a new breed in the 90s. They are much more knowledgeable about their legal rights, especially their right to file charges against employers without fear of retaliation and their right to sue for defamation if they are given a false or misleading reference. Strategic considerations These factors have led many employers to implement new strategies for dealing with employee terminations that help the workers find new jobs and minimize their business' vulnerability to legal actions. Such strategies include normal and enhanced severance programs with built-in release requirements and special policies to deal with reference inquiries.

This article will discuss the value of outplacement counseling as part of the termination or layoff process. Outplacement counselors assist displaced workers and, at the same time, help to dissuade these workers from suing the company.

Most displaced employees believe that their terminations were unwarranted and poorly communicated to them. Moreover, a terminated employee often feels that his or her employer acted in a cold, unfeeling manner and "destroyed my career." Such employee perceptions often translate into feelings of betrayal, bitterness and anger toward the company and former supervisors. Employees who are left to deal with these emotions on their own may, in turn, divert their hostile energies toward seeking retribution against their employers, as opposed to putting all their effort into seeking new jobs and getting on with their lives. Counseling diffuses anger At this point, the services of experienced outplacement professionals can help. At the time of termination and shortly thereafter, the outplacement professional often can diffuse the anger that the employee feels and ultimately turn the worker into someone who expresses appreciation for having the support of his or her former employer during the transition process. …

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