Human resources professionals know the importance of evenhanded discipline—making sure equal offenses warrant equal penalties and taking care not to punish members of a protected class more severely than others.
But other managers may not be so careful, often preferring to issue casual and informal warnings that aren’t recorded anywhere, only to insist on more severe sanctions when they perceive employees crossing some indefinite line. When that happens, you run a real risk of facing a disparate treatment lawsuit.
Insist that managers tell HR when they issue any form of discipline, even an oral warning. That way, there’s a record that you can later use to explain why it only looks like a discharged employee was punished more harshly than others who committed the same offense.
Attend the Mastering Employee Discipline webinar with Paul Falcone, vice president of HR at Time Warner Cable, to learn how to document and discuss employee discipline in the most clear, accurate and legally safe way possible.
Equally important, you’ll find out how to avoid “codifying the damage” to your company if a plaintiff's attorney ever attempts to use your disciplinary documents against you.
Case in Point:
The U.S. Postal Service fired Larry Rasco, who is white, from his job when he allegedly used the label room as a break room and failed to follow directions. He sued, alleging that two Hispanic employees were not fired when they also were caught using the room for breaks.
The Postal Service presented evidence that, while the Hispanic employees had never been disciplined before, Rasco was a frequent rule-breaker. In fact, supervisors had carefully documented his past conduct.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the discharge. The court said there was plenty of evidence justifying Rasco’s harsher punishment. (Rasco v. Potter, No. 07-20155, 5th Cir., 2008)
Register for Mastering Employee Discipline now and receive a complimentary copy of 101 Sample Write-Ups.
The 370-page book and customizable CD are filled with ready-to-use model documents and templates that will help you write up everything from “bad attitudes” to poor work quality to attendance issues. Register now...
The best way to ensure that all workers are being disciplined equally free from bias is to audit your previous disciplinary actions. The best way to check is to group discipline by type of misconduct and punishment. Then compare the employees’ gender, race, age and other protected characteristics against the punishment for the same conduct. That way, if an employee claims bias, you can readily show the EEOC or state or local discrimination agencies the truth.
The result: Case dismissed.
This webinar and book series on Mastering Employee Discipline will help you:
Register now for this interactive event!
- Master progressive discipline and effectively structure terminations.
- Draft warnings, discipline and termination documents – the right way.
- Save time and remove the anxiety from the discipline-documentation process.
- Build confidence in your writing skills and improve your standing within the organization.
- Shift responsibility for improvement away from the organization and back to the employee (where it rightfully belongs!).
- Allow employees a chance to take ownership of their own performance improvement.
- Erect a legal barrier against wrongful termination lawsuits.
- Avoid the common mistakes employers make with their discipline policies and follow-through.
- Employ alternatives to formal disciplinary warnings, including letters of clarification.
- Learn how to use progressive discipline documents as a means to control performance, behavior and attendance problems … and cut costs.
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- Not everyone wears a halo: Courts don't expect perfect work environment
- Regularly review exempt status to avoid FLSA 'job creep'
- Erratic employees