Spurrier Jr., Robert L.
March 1986
Public Administration Quarterly;Spring86, Vol. 10 Issue 1, p60
Academic Journal
This article examines the legal factors which must be confronted by public employers faced with budget shortages and considering reduction-in-force. By definition, a reduction in force has greater impact on some public employees than others. One approach to routinizing the process for selecting the employees who will be negatively affected by a reduction-in-force is the utilization of some form of seniority system. When the Memphis, Tennessee, fire department faced projected budget shortages in 1981, it attempted to implement a reduction in force using a last hired, first fired system which was based on continuous service from latest date of permanent employment on a citywide basis. Concluding that there was a racially discriminatory effect against African American firefighters, the district court enjoined enforcement of the seniority-based reduction-in-force program. An important aspect of the Memphis decision is the fact that the city had entered into a memorandum of understanding with the firefighters union which included the use of seniority as the basis for individual determinations if layoffs became necessary. Furthermore, for public managers the adoption of a seniority-based reduction-in-force policy is a legally acceptable position in view of the clear Supreme Court ruling in Stotts as long as the reduction-in-force plan is not adopted with the intent to discriminate.


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