Common Workplace Problems in Different Legal Environments
PART V: WRONGFUL DISCHARGE
Involuntary termination from employment can be a serious, even catastrophic event, especially for long-serving employees. There is a loss of income and, possibly, critical benefits that are dependent on employment; as time goes by without employment there may be an erosion or loss of critical skills as well. In addition, there can be serious psychological and social consequences from a loss of status and self-respect – in some cases, a sense of having been treated arbitrarily or abused – and a lack of connectedness with what had been a work group. In communities, displaced workers represent lost purchasing power, increased social service needs, and, when many workers are displaced, a risk to the viability of the community. Being responsible for such social displacement weighs heavy on most managers, but the many externalities have led to various forms of regulation of involuntary termination. Despite, or perhaps due to, the emotional intensity of job loss, the terminology (in English) conveys varying degrees of severity – from being laid off, to being displaced, to being declared redundant, to being discharged, to being severed, to being terminated. There are also numerous euphemisms, including “position elimination,” “cutbacks,” “workforce reduction,” “reduction in force or RIF,” “downsizing,” “delayering,” “right sizing,” “smartsizing,” “re-engineering,” “repurposing,” “reorientation,” “realignment,” “retrenchment,” “managed attri- tion,” “thinning the herd,” and “shoot the stragglers.” Sadly, the various terms and euphemisms can be met with resistance and even violent behavior. Not surprisingly, then, all developed countries have developed ways to deal with claims of wrongful dismissal.
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