Layoffs? Document each step of the process.

With the economy in full swing, fewer companies are needing to do reductions in force (RIFs). But if your organization is one of them, it's HR's job to take one key step: Make sure every step of the process is thoroughly and contemporaneously documented--from the initial downsizing to the final decision about which employees will go.

Here's why: When employees learn they are about to lose their jobs because of a RIF, they often contact a lawyer. A savvy plaintiffs' attorney will pick through the RIF selection process looking for possible discrimination based on protected characteristics.

But employees are unlikely to make discrimination charges stick if you can clearly show that you have legitimate, nonbiased, business-based reasons for any RIF decision.

Recent case: When Theodore learned he would be laid off, he immediately revealed that he was suffering from prostate cancer and he requested various reasonable accommodations. The employer turned down the requests, noting that it saw no need for accommodations when he...

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