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Three Tips for Employers During the Texas Drought

The Texas drought has wracked the state's agricultural industry and cost the economy billions, reports the Austin Statesman.

Texas A&M University estimates that the total economic impact of the severe Texas drought will be $8.7 billion. And the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture reports that 96 percent of Texas pastureland is in poor or very poor condition.

No doubt such an economic depression will require many business to downgrade and cut employees. Here are three tips that employers should remember when letting go of employees:

1. Count the number of your employees.

Why? Because employers with 100 or more employees are subject to the federal WARN Act. WARN Act’s purpose is to protect workers and their families by requiring employers to notify workers sixty calendar days in advance of plant closings or mass layoffs. WARN also requires employers to notify state dislocated worker units so that dislocated worker assistance can be provided to the employees. Failing to provide notice to the state government may result in a fine of up to $500 per day for each day the employer is in violation.

2. Lay people off only for business reasons.

One of the biggest mistakes managers make when conducting layoffs is to use it as an opportunity to trim the “dead weight.” But lay-offs, unlike performance or behavior-based terminations, must be done solely for business reasons.

That means an otherwise hardworking employee in a non-essential position should not be retained just because you would rather lay off an obnoxious employee who nevertheless performs an essential role. An employee can sue for wrongful termination if his or her layoff cannot be justified by business necessity alone or tips dangerously into areas where discrimination could be claimed.

3. Avoid disparate impact discrimination.

Even if lay-offs don’t have a discriminatory intent, if there is a disproportionately negative impact on protected classes of individuals, you could get hit with a disparate impact violation. Lawsuits based on the disparate impact theory often stem from layoffs, pre-employment skills testing, or other employment-related actions that impact a wide sample of individuals. The only upside here for an employer is that disparate impact cases are hard to prove.

The Texas drought has brought hard times along with the dry weather., but employees should keep a clear head when considering lay-offs to help protect their businesses.

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