• LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+

When deciding on employee discipline, you don’t have to be absolutely right–just fair

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,People Management,Performance Reviews

Supervisors have to make decisions on how to run the workplace every day. They can’t spend hours deliberating every move. Imagine how little actual work would get done if supervisors had to double-check every decision to make absolutely sure it was correct.

Fortunately, courts don’t require perfection from employers—just assurance that they acted fairly and in good faith.

Recent case: FedEx employee Sunny Ekokotu, who is black, filed a lawsuit alleging that his supervisors retaliated against him for complaining earlier about race discrimination. Ekokotu claimed he was falsely punished for bad customer service by having his schedule changed by a half-hour. He also said he got less overtime after the initial complaint.

FedEx explained that the schedule change was necessary for smooth operations. It said it wrote up Ekokotu for performance problems only after listening to a customer’s complaints.

The court tossed out Ekokotu’s lawsuit, concluding that FedEx had shown it acted in good faith. It didn’t matter if the customer or Ekokotu was right about the facts underlying the customer complaint. The court said the company was free to choose whom to believe. And Ekokotu had no evidence that the schedule change was motivated by a desire to punish him, not legitimate logistical needs. (Ekokotu v. Federal Express, No. 10-12433, 11th Cir., 2011)

Final note: Courts, overwhelmed by growing caseloads, seem increasingly inclined to give employers the benefit of a doubt.

Leave a Comment