March 17th, 2020


COVID-19 & Your Team: Reduction In Force

We recognize that COVID-19 has brought uncertainty to your practice, and if you are feeling it, the rest of your team is as well. They probably have a lot of questions that you might not have answers for right now.

We also know that you want to do right by your staff members and that you want to make them feel as secure in your leadership. You want to leave a lasting impression for the future that you, their employer, handled this crisis well.

A reduction in force (RIF) is not an ideal solution, but they are sometimes necessary to keep the business afloat. Commonly referred to as lay-offs, they are when a business makes the hard decision to let go of one or more employees for financial or restructuring purposes.   

What you should know and consider about a RIF

  • A RIF should not be your first step in this process, but it should be a step that you know can come later.   
  • Consider other alternatives that might achieve the same result (voluntary time off, furloughs, etc.)
  • Employees will be terminated from their role immediately. Employers will be required to follow state-mandated laws in regards to termination and final paychecks. This could mean employers would have to pay out all unused Paid Time Off (PTO), Vacation time, and/or sick time upon termination.
  • Employees who are laid-off should qualify for unemployment.
    • Due to the current COVID-19 crisis, most states have lifted the waiting period to receive unemployment benefits.
    • Most unemployment state agencies will provide qualified employees with a percentage of their current salary earnings up to a maximum amount. Please check with your local unemployment websites to verify what their current payout formulas are.
  • You should follow all necessary steps regarding final pay in accordance with current state law.

How to conduct a RIF

  • Select Employees for layoff
    • Avoid Adverse Action / Disparate Impact (protected classes of people)
    • Stay compliant with WARN Act
    • Review Older Worker’s Benefits Protection Act
  • Determine severance package
    • This might not be feasible due to the current COVID-19 crisis
  • Conduct the layoff
    • Try to stick to the script. Be clear to the employee if this is a temporary layoff.
    • Be clear about the reasons for the RIF. If an employee understands the reasons behind the decision, it can reduce the negativity of the situation and help them take it less personally.
    • Communicate with the employee about the continuation of benefits for medical insurance. Inform the team member of how they can access unemployment insurance.
    • Provide information about the unemployment benefits process if you can
  • Inform the entire workforce of layoff
    • Be transparent with the remaining team. Unfortunately, at this time you may not be able to reassure everyone

Unfortunately, there is no way to make any of this easy on your staff or to avoid all negative fallout. Most people are feeling insecure given the present uncertainty. Hopefully, this outline can serve as a structure to help you navigate the circumstances, should it become necessary to reduce your workforce.