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When employee gripes about differing treatment, be prepared to document everything

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Occasionally, employees angrily complain that discrimination is the reason they’re being treated differently than other employees. But different treatment isn’t always discrimination, and in fact, it’s often easy to explain.

Recent case: Dennis Robuck apparently couldn’t get along with a female co-worker for reasons that remain obscure. Both, however, liked to take long walks on their lunch breaks.

At first, Robuck was able to avoid the woman because her lunch break was 30 minutes later than Robuck’s. Then a manager decided to switch Robuck to the same lunch period as the woman. This caused all sorts of problems as Robuck had trouble avoiding her. He demanded to be changed back to the earlier lunch period, but his request was denied.

Robuck sued, alleging sex discrimination because he wasn’t allowed to have his preferred lunch period, while the co-worker apparently was.

The court tossed out the case, reasoning that while the two might have been treated differently (or even unfairly), the reason wasn’t related to either’s sex. (Robuck v. Mine Safety Appliance Company, No. 2:10-CV-00763, WD PA, 2010)

Final note: What should you do when you get odd complaints like this one? You can try to reason with the complaining employee, but that may not work. Sometimes, you have to accept that an employee may sue and you will have to defend yourself. Prepare by documenting everything about the complaint and your investigation. Then count on a court to quickly dismiss the case.

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