With the market continuing on its roller coaster trajectory, many employers have been forced to make big cuts to payroll. When doing so, employers must think about a number of things, between final paychecks, vacation time, and other benefits.  It is no small feat.  And, in the remote world, more than ever, employers must consider how to lay off employees and the associated legal risks.

In the last few years employers have increasingly taken advantage of the remote aspect of work to provide layoff notifications via email. While traditionally done in person, the email notice method may allow employers to avoid an awkward conversation and otherwise seems easy and hassle-free. But employees have overwhelmingly indicated this approach is too impersonal and leaves them with a sense that the employer just doesn’t care.

Criticism from affected employees has made clear that while difficult, they appreciate a layoff conversation with their manager, even if by Zoom, and some compassion and sympathy.  While it seems that many employees would prefer to meet in-person for such a conversation, there appears to be an understanding that this is not always possible. The point is that a conversation is preferable to an impersonalized email (especially considering the employee may not even see the email before realizing that they have been locked out of company systems).  It may also mean the different between an antagonized employee more likely to move forward with a threatened lawsuit and one who moves forward amicably. 

To help mitigate reputational damage and the likelihood of legal challenges, employers should consider taking a step back and carefully planning out layoff conversations. A simple face-to-face conversation may end up providing the closure an employee needs.