Manager’s Explanation of Employee’s Inclusion in RIF Was “Plus Factor” That Undercut Age Claim
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit found that a manager’s explanation as to why an employee was included in a company reduction in force was a “plus factor” that supported the company’s decision to terminate the employee.
In Vira v. Crowley Liner Servs., Inc., the employee was included in a RIF of about 100 employees, and he sued for age discrimination and retaliation for taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The employee argued that an employer could not simply rely on the economic benefits of a RIF without explaining why the particular individual was selected for the RIF – i.e. a “plus factor.” The court acknowledged that it had previously looked at plus factors to determine whether a termination decision was nondiscriminatory, but declined to decide whether such a plus factor was always required since in this case, the manager’s statement, which explained the reasons for the employee’s selection, was a plus factor.
This case emphasizes the wisdom of identifying what legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons underlie each individual selection for a RIF.