A number of government employees in Lafayette Parish were laid off due to losses that were caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Lafayette Parish decides to eliminate over one hundred positions
The Mayor-President of the Parish announced that the last day for the workers would be approximately two weeks after the announcement was published. He said that it was necessary because of budget shortfalls, business closures, and other problems caused by the pandemic and subsequent restrictions. Many discretionary contracts and open positions were also cancelled as cost saving measures. Other means of saving money for the parish would be explored as well, as the mayor announced that these steps were only the beginning of pending budget cuts.
About 78 of the employees who were terminated worked part time at nature centers, science museums, and centers for the arts. Most of these facilities have either been closed or operating at a significantly reduced capacity due to virus restrictions. Only a few employees are still required at each location. The parish government is trying to direct funds towards essential functions such as keeping roads open and funding police and fire departments. Activities related to the arts had previously been considered non-essential. The Lafayette consolidated government released a statement that redirecting government money is a top priority as restrictions and lockdowns have caused severe problems for smaller businesses and governments all over the country.
Some of the positions may be reinstated as the parish enters a new budgetary year, but that would likely not be until several months later. It is also possible that the state or federal government could intervene with additional funding. At the time of the report, their objective for the facilities that lost the most workers was to ensure proper maintenance and keep the buildings in good condition.
Layoffs, terminations, and justifications from employers
Employers are allowed to eliminate certain positions, but there are guidelines and requirements for how this must be done. Workers can only be terminated for neutral reasons related to things such as budget issues or poor job performance. An employer cannot retaliate against a worker for asserting any protected rights, and they cannot discriminate against workers for race, religion, gender, national origin, or a number of other protected characteristics. Doing so can put them at risk for civil lawsuits and other actions by government agencies that regulate employment issues. The employer or agency must also pay any wages that are owed, and they cannot use the conclusion of the position as an excuse to avoid paying wages for hours that were already worked.
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