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LEGAL LAYOFFS

"Fire at will" may be a sound military strategy. But if you're laying off in this downturn, you're better off with a battle plan that carefully follows the law.

CASE IN POINT

When business plunged 10% in March, Stephen Peplin, president of Talan Products Inc., a Cleveland metal-stamping plant, was forced to let go about 15% of his 40-person shop. He carefully reviewed each of the cuts to be certain they were based on business concerns, not personality or other intangibles. He then consulted his attorney to make sure there were no unintentional impacts on protected groups of workers. "You have to deal with the potential liability," Peplin says. "If you don't, you could expose the company to a heap of trouble."

RESOURCES

Quicken.com tells you what you need to do before firing someone (quicken.com/small_business). The HR Guide to Internet Resources (hr-guide.com) has dozens of links to consultants, books, and software; hrtools.com offers downloadable "toolkits" on termination. Employment Law for Business, by Dawn D. Bennett-Alexander and Laura Pincus Hartman (McGraw-Hill, 2000, $90), covers everything from discrimination to privacy rights. By Joan Raymond


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