People in a variety of work environments could face subtle or overt discrimination at work. Sometimes, discrimination looks like your employer refusing to take action when you face harassment from co-workers. Other times, discrimination could look like receiving less money for the same work than other coworkers or not receiving raises or promotions based on your gender, religion or age, among other factors.
Thankfully, there are both federal and state laws in place that prevent discrimination against workers. North Carolina generally does not approve of employers who fire, demote or refuse to hire people based on factors like race, age, disability or gender. However, corporate employers have become more intelligent about how to approach these sorts of situations. Companies may attempt to hide discrimination as part of a restructuring effort.
What exactly is restructuring?
For those who are not familiar with this term, restructuring is a process when a company revisits every detail of how the company operates. They look at everything from standard business practices to the number of employees in different departments.
Many times, companies hire outside consultants to perform this task to avoid accusations of bias. Sometimes, these people interact with employees to understand the flow of business. Other times, they review everything through documentation and accounting perspectives.
From there, they make decisions on how to better streamline their organization. Many times, restructuring leads to layoffs and terminations for many employees. Sometimes, that process is legal and transparent. Other times, it becomes clear based on which employees are let go that restructuring is a smokescreen for institutionalized discrimination at your place of employment.
You may still have a wrongful termination case if discrimination factored into employer decisions
Many people who lose their jobs as part of a business restructuring feel like they have no options. They simply choose to brush off their resume and start looking for a new job. While that is always a good option, you should also look carefully at what happened. You may find some unsettling patterns.
Were the majority of people who got let go close to retirement age? Were all the employees with disabilities terminated or demoted? If you are in a competitive or technical field, like information technology, were people over the age of 40 primarily the ones fired? Was one gender represented more heavily in the people let go during restructuring? Did you know that, despite a strong record of work performance, you'd be one of the people let go?
Answering yes to any of these questions could mean that your employer was using restructuring as a way to hide discrimination in their employment practices. Your best option if you suspect that restructuring led to wrongful termination for you or coworkers is to document everything and explore all of your legal options.