In an abrupt and unexpected move last week, the members-only warehouse chain owned by Wal-Mart called Sam’s Club initiated operations to close 63 locations across the United States and Puerto Rico in the near future in a strategic shift to accommodate a consumer trend for more online spending. Nearly a dozen of the closed stores will be transformed into e-commerce centers, while others in Alaska, Texas, and New Jersey will no longer be retained because of underperformance issues. The company has stated that some employees will be offered openings at other locations, but the closures will have the effect of eliminating roughly 10,000 jobs. With so many businesses making recent headlines for downsizing in favor of the e-commerce boom, employees in retail and elsewhere are left asking: what are my rights if my employer begins making layoffs? How can I tell if a layoff is illegal?
Considering the reasons behind your being laid off can help settle these questions. Since Florida is an at-will state for employment, employers have the ability to let an employee go at any time and for any reason (or no reason at all), as long as it is not based on a legally protected characteristic that the employee has or that the employee engaged in a protected activity. Legally guarded characteristics include: age, disability, genetic information, marital status, national origin, pregnancy, race/color, religion, or gender. If your release from a position (even with little advance notice) was legitimately due to a company reducing its number of locations, as opposed to one of the above protected criteria, chances are the layoff was more unfair than illegal. On the other hand, you may be entitled to assert your rights against an act of discrimination or retaliation under federal and state laws if, say, the company transfers employees or takes applications for other locations and you are treated less favorably in that process based on those characteristics described above or because you engaged in a legally protected activity while an employee. Either way, being laid off is an unpleasant event that can leave you feeling wronged, and the best way to determine whether that entitles you to compensation is to consult with an attorney.
Florin Roebig fights to protect victims of workplace discrimination and retaliation. If you feel you have been targeted in this way as an employee, call our office to set up a free legal case evaluation by calling (727) 786-5000 or visit our contact page.