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Can “quiet firings” be the product of discrimination?

On Behalf of | May 2, 2023 | Wrongful Termination

Quiet firings are a type of employment termination wherein an employee is gradually pushed out of their position or encouraged to quit through subtle (or not-so-subtle) and indirect methods. It’s used when an employer doesn’t want to formally notify the employee that they’re being fired and – yes – it can be the product of workplace discrimination.

In fact, some employers may use quiet firings as a way to discriminate against employees based on their protected characteristics, such as race, gender, age or a newly disclosed disability – and they do it to avoid a paperwork trail of their actions.

How does quiet firing work?

Every situation is unique, but here are some examples of how employers go about indirectly dismissing their unwanted employees:

  • They may give an employee less desirable tasks or assignments. These could simply be the least-favored aspects of a job or they could be assignments that are basically “busywork” and unlikely to lead to advancement.
  • They may reduce the employee’s workload under the guise of helping the employee keep their schedule manageable, while effectively sidelining them as far as importance to their team.
  • They may start to exclude the employee from important meetings or projects and keep them out of the loop on emails or training materials.
  • They may encourage the employee’s direct supervisor, co-workers or team members to give the targeted employee the “cold shoulder,” essentially treating them like an outsider and making them personally uncomfortable.

Over time, this can create a hostile work environment for the employee and make them quit on their own. The employer usually thinks that they’re “off the hook” for any legal repercussions for their actions.

If you’ve been the victim of a “quiet firing,” and you think it was motivated by discrimination based on a protected characteristic or retaliation for your exercise of a legally-protected right, that’s illegal. Your former employer can be held liable for damages, including back pay, front pay and compensation for your emotional distress. Seeking legal guidance can help you explore your options.