When an employer decides that relocating their company is a good business decision, employees are faced with the ultimatum - move with the company or loose your job. On it's face, relocation does not seem discriminatory, but as employers cut back on relocation assistance it makes it extremely difficult for some groups of people to move with the company. Older employees and employees who do not make a lot of money are often the most adversely effected by relocations.
An employer has no legal obligation to pay for an employee's relocation expenses. Employers can choose to pay for relocating employees with key skill sets, but choose not to provide any assistance to other employees and this is not considered discriminatory. Employees may have to endure the entire cost of relocating, which could mean short selling their homes and increasing their debts in order to keep their jobs.
Even though entire groups or departments may be relocated to another office, the employees who are most able to make the transition tend to be younger, financially stable people. Older employees who have spent their lives raising families in a particular area are less inclined to relocate because of the strong ties they have to their community. Familial connections or a spouses' job may make relocating very difficult for many older individuals.
Employees may be also hesitant to move to a new place, especially if there is a dramatic difference in the cost of living. If an employer is not offering relocation assistance, the shock of pricing differences can seem staggering. This makes it extremely difficult for older employees who are saving for retirement to bear the costs of relocation. Employees approaching retirement have to make sure they are financially prepared for the future and often cannot budget in such a drastic change in their living situation. Even though employment relocation may disproportionately effect older employees, as long as the relocation did not specifically target older people, relocation may be considered a legitimate business decision and the courts may be reluctant to intervene in those circumstances.
MSNBC recently had a feature on this topic, as well as additional information.