Friday, February 13, 2009

McClatchy laying off at-will employees ahead of anticipated "mass layoffs"?

Readers in comments say terminations of McClatchy employees during January were higher than normal. From comments:
I was "terminated" two weeks ago. I could see that the newspaper I was from had been gearing up for the bloodshed that's about to happen because there were many sudden terminations the first three weeks of January. It used to average 1 or 2 terminations every month at the very most but there were at least 10 throughout January alone before I got called into HR... In my opinion, it was their way of getting rid of people without having to pay as many severance packages. Being that I was an at-will employee, I don't think I have any legal avenues either...
Is McClatchy clearing the deck prior to possible mass layoffs in March? What are you hearing?


Anonymous said...

We asked yesterday and never got an answer. What paper is doing this???

We have never had at-will employees. Just the words "at-will" to me would mean just that. They work at the will of the company. The company didn't want them anymore. End of story.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday the scoop was "mass layoffs" but the truth is that the Guild letter was about one paper. The SacBee in CA. Yes, I'm sure there will be layoffs. If the count is based on revenues then there will be a different layoff count for CA and FL papers. They are the ones bleeding so much right now.

Anonymous said...

In previous layoffs, employees were layed off by seniority regardless of whether they worked in a state with At Will labor laws. It was explained that they were legally obligated to layoff by seniority. While this may be the case under certain specific circumstances (such as when unions are involved), At Will means just that: employment is At Will and may be ended by the employer or the employee for any reason and without liability. Of course, there are specific exceptions to At Will on a state by state basis, but generally speaking, At Will is as described.

It is easier for a company to weed out the workforce in states where At Will prevails. From my previous experience at a major telecom, At Will was used to retain non-union employees that were the best value for the company - performance and salary as major factors. Companies can trim the fat so to speak.

In the newspaper industry, tenure rules and underperformers have historically been retained (possibly shuffled into other positions). This makes for lot of fat. From a company's standpoint, trimming the fat is preferable to cutting arbitrarily based on tenure.

So, someone somewhere in McClatchy figure out At Will labor law and started using it. It would have been prudent of the company to understand At Will from the get go and make use of it to cut wisely instead of blindly. However, using At Will as a crutch to simply layoff people without severance is unconscionable. Even a bankrupt telecom was able to award severance to layed off employees.

We only know the OPs side of the story on this particular instance, so we don't know if the company considered this a layoff or not, if it was a sneaky way to cut costs or a justifiable termination. Even so, At Will doesn't have to have a reason for termination, and it's unlikely anyone here will hear anything about this particular case other than what the OP says.

I personally hate for any former MNI colleagues to get layed off. I certainly hope the company will make prudent decisions about any future layoffs and not abuse At Will employment status. Even so, I think employees in At Will states such as North Carolina should be wary.

Anonymous said...

Well said 6:51!

Archer05 said...

“A “mass layoff” is defined as a layoff which results in the [loss of at least 33%] of the employee workforce.”

I wonder if early layoffs could result in keeping a ‘mass layoff’ number below that target percentage.

The following is a link to a law firm. They offered information on the Warn Act. I noticed that attorneys are advertising on blogs next to layoff articles. Of course they hope employees will be interested in them, but the information is still valuable.

Archer05 said...

"Employment Law in Florida
In Florida, it is very difficult to overcome the at-will presumption."

-At Will-

“In Florida, employees are presumed to be "at will." At-will employees may be terminated for any reason, so long as it's not illegal. Generally, employees who work under an employment contract can only be terminated for reasons specified in the contract. In Florida, it is very difficult to overcome the at-will presumption.”

Anonymous said...

Archer05 where did you get your data? The following comes from the Dept. of Labor not an attorney looking for work.

Jan 01,2009

Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor. Defines a mass layoff as an action that involves at least 50 persons from a single employer.

Anonymous said...

After sinking a previously debt free company into billions of dollars worth of debt, Pru is now cost cutting what remains of MNI into oblivion. He'll no doubt get a hefty bonus for reaching his target goal and sending more folks to the bread line. Nice work if you can find it, huh?

Anonymous said...

Here's some info on the WARN act:

It's not simply a percentage of headcount across an entire company, but may be specific to groups (like departments) at individual sites.

Archer05 said...

7:38 AM - “Where did you get your data?”

I was reading a layoff article, and the law firm ad was next to the article. I expected a law firm to discuss the facts employees might find helpful. The link to the firm I gave works, the info came straight from their page.

Anonymous said...

Archer05 I got it from the Department of Labor, I quoted it exactly.

I appreciate all your posting but thought I should point this out.

Archer05 said...

I did note this statement:

The WARN Act [generally] applies to employers with 100 or more employees (excluding employees who have worked for less than six months and those who work less than 20 hours per week).
Do you think the 'shrinking' employment at some papers, over the past few months, might have had something to do with ‘A method to their madness?’ I would be interested to know if some smaller papers slipped below that number these past months. There are plenty of posters that say it is odd how their numbers dwindled. (Experienced faces disappear, while [new hires] emerge.)