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Forward: Is there a Jewish way to to make layoffs

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The Forward takes a look inside recent layoffs at the American Jewish Congress and YIVO, and then asks the question “Is there a Jewish way to layoff?”

The answer according to the Forward seems to be yes. Here are a few ethical rules of thumb the interviewees put forward:

  • Don’t lay off people who are close to retirement.
  • Offer them help finding jobs and services after you lay them off
  • Try to avoid layoffs by defraying salary cuts across the board.

Plenty of organizations are dealing with this issue, but the story focuses on YIVO and the AJCongress:

Surely, no one being laid off enjoys the experience. “I don’t know anybody who has been laid off who thought they were treated fairly, or that the employer did it well,” said David Edell, the president of Development Research Group, which provides professional consulting for many Jewish nonprofits.

But Edell and others agree that there are better and worse ways to do the dirty deed. Consider, for example, the case of Herbert Lazarus, who worked for nearly 25 years shelving and retrieving books at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in Manhattan. In early February, just two years short of his retirement, Lazarus was called in and told he was being immediately terminated. Fellow employees said that Lazarus, who is legally deaf, was not offered any help in finding new work or in tracking down benefits to help pay for living expenses and health care.

More than 70 scholars and researchers have signed a letter calling for Lazarus to be reinstated, citing YIVO’s Jewish obligations. “As a Jewish organization, particularly one that is rooted in traditions of social justice, it behooves you to consider the welfare of your employees,” the letter said.

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