Were VUMC Executives Forthright on Layoffs?

After experiencing a struggling economy for the past few years, many people have been either directly or indirectly affected by mass layoffs. Whether you have been laid off or know someone who has, you know how difficult it can be for those who have lost their job. However, the companies or organizations conducting the terminations do not always act according to the law. If you have questions about your rights after being terminated from your employment, contact an experienced Tennessee employment lawyer.

Earlier this month Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), Middle Tennessee’s largest private employer, terminated over 300 employees. It is expected that more terminations are to come. VUMC executives have stated that budget cuts as well as a downturn in the health care industry were a large basis for the layoffs.

However, a team of attorneys is looking into the criteria used to determine who exactly would be laid off. The attorneys are expected to closely analyze certain aspects of those terminated including race, age, and use of family medical leave. The attorneys have stated that they will investigate “discrepancies” in the layoffs based on both federal and state laws enacted to protect employees. They have advised that a class-action lawsuit could be possible against VUMC.

Beginning in April, Vanderbilt stopped allowing hourly employees to accrue vacation time. This prohibition lasted up until the terminations occurred. The attorneys have stated that not allowing the employees to accrue vacation time for a period of time may be a large liability. The lead attorney Jerry Martin stated, “We have reason to believe that the announcement and the reasons given to the employees back in the spring about the inability to accrue vacation time was not fully transparent, nor was Vanderbilt fully forthcoming about how it found itself in that situation.”

Recently, VUMC Vice Chancellor of Health Affairs Jeff Balser sent out a memorandum to all employees outlining the reasoning for a potential reduction in staff. Claiming that the health care bubble had popped, Balser said that VUMC is experiencing declining reimbursements for services to patients insured by Medicare and Medicaid as well as declining support for research.

One of those terminated was 52-year-old Roger Sparks. He said that he was just handed a letter of termination after working at VUMC for nearly 20 years. According to Sparks, the letter said that the termination had to do with budgetary concerns as well as work performance. Sparks stated that he believes that the termination is a result of possible age discrimination. Sparks stated that he had not received any prior notices indicating poor work performance.

Vanderbilt has not commented on the workers’ allegations of possible wrongdoing or the potential legal action. This will be an interesting case to monitor as time goes on. With more jobs cuts to come at VUMC, there is a greater chance of potential legal action against Vanderbilt.

If you believe that you have been terminated for unlawful reasons whether it is age, race, or gender, contact a Tennessee employment lawyer. At The Higgins Firm, we would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

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