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Are Younger Workers More Vulnerable to Layoffs?

With a slumping economy forcing more companies to lay off employees, you might think that it's the higher-paid, older workers who are bearing the brunt of the terminations. But as Jane Genova points out at Law and More, millennials are actually more vulnerable to being cut.

Genova cites an article from The Wall Street Journal Online, which notes that the unemployment rate for those between the ages of 25 and 34 was 9.6 percent in April 2009, up from 4.9 percent a year earlier. By contrast, the unemployment rate for the 55-and-older crowd was 6.2 percent in April 2009, versus 3.3 percent a year earlier.

Why are younger employees -- those in their 20s and 30s -- finding themselves the targets of layoffs? In part, they have lawyers to thank. Employers seeking to avoid age-discrimination lawsuits are adopting "last one in, first one out" policies. And at least anecdotally, it seems employers are focusing on young, childless professionals rather than those with families, also to avoid claims of discrimination based on family situations.

So what does all of this mean for lawyers? Genova argues that discrimination against younger workers could potentially become a niche practice area. From the WSJ Online article:

Gerald Maatman, co-chairman of the class-action litigation practice at Seyfarth Shaw LLP, which represents employers, says he has been fielding more inquiries about laying off younger workers than in years past, especially from companies in states like New Jersey and Michigan that have laws to protect workers as young as 18.

On the other hand, it's also easier for companies to defend a decision to let younger workers go, particularly if they have a bona fide seniority system in place. In addition, some younger workers have "high-maintenance" attitudes, which can also justify a termination.

Even though younger workers may not be able to invoke discrimination laws to protect their jobs, they still have more practical options available, says Bruce Tulgan, author of Not Everyone Gets A Trophy: "Come in early, stay late, dot your i's and cross your t's."

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 19, 2009 at 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

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