Farewell, Factory of the Damned

There are one or two ways to handle a major layoff as a responsible and ethical employer. There are about 50 ways to do it wrong. Jimmy's soon-to-be-former employer is trying most of them on for size.

Those of you who read my Facebook know my fiancé is about to be laid off. This poses no small problem for us, as book sales have bottomed out and supporting a family of three (including a teenager with a tapeworm and two hollow legs) on a reporter's salary is... problematic. Yeah, that's it.

He's been actively job-hunting for two months, frenetically begging on the job market since this layoff was announced a few weeks ago. He's had three nibbles, no offers, though one is quite promising. We've pared down the budget as much as we can (note to self: don't sign long-term contracts anymore).

In the meantime, let's review how you DON'T handle a layoff well:

• Keep all your employees in the dark and let speculation run riot before giving your workers notice of layoff.

• Tell workers the layoff is because Wal-Mart is switching to Juarez, Mexico as its source of fuses. It may even be true. Regardless, their annoyance at Wal-mart will blind them to the fact that you seem to have just as much business as before, and they won't complain about working hours and hours of unscheduled overtime.

• Then delay actual written notice of the layoff until the last possible second, ensuring that applications for any benefits will be delayed as much as possible.

• When repeatedly asked for a written notice, stave off workers with a photocopied sheet giving the number for the unemployment office, which they could just get from the Internet and is useless until date of layoff anyway.

• Only when workers practically stage a sit-in at human resources should you give written notice of layoff, preferably the day before benefits are scheduled to end.

• Severance? Sure! But don't actually pay the severance for a full year, when it will do the least possible good. It's not like they need to pay their rent in the 18-22 days it takes to process an unemployment claim, and when that claim comes, of course it's only going to be half what they were making. Who needs more than that?

• Also, make the severance contingent on recalls. If you call them back six months from now and they turn you down for any reason, such as finding a new job outside Hell, they forfeit their severance. You win!

• Be sure to set up the 401(k) so when you lay them off, they only get about 25 percent of what's in their accounts. The rest you get to keep. It's your bonus for doing such a bang-up job.

• In the last few weeks leading up to the layoff date, "forget" to send child support payments to the various state agencies. Sure, you're charging those guys nearly $100 a year in "administration fees" to withhold support from their checks and send it to those agencies, but those guys are so worried about finding new jobs they might not notice right away that you're withholding support payments and not actually paying them. Until the court summons comes, then you actually have to send the checks.

• The last week before layoffs, hire temps to take the place of the guys you're laying off. Bonus: you can have the exiting staff train them!

If it wasn't for the money, I'd say good riddance to Factory of the Damned. As it is... well, buy books, if you would. And pray.

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