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To defeat bias lawsuits, track all supervisors’ discipline

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Nothing will sink an employee’s discrimination case faster than evidence that you handed out punishment in the exact same doses to other employees as well.

That’s why it’s important to track each disciplinary action that supervisors and managers undertake. Train them to record all discipline, even oral reprimands and other seemingly minor rule infractions. That way, if someone in a protected class sues you alleging unfair treatment, you’ll be able to show that you punished others for similar behavior.

Don’t make the mistake of tracking only the worst offenses when it’s clear you’ll have to fire an employee. Create a paper trail for all employees.

Recent case: Kenneth Brown, a black employee at Harcourt School Publishers, worked at a job tracking large book orders and ensuring prompt order processing. His only co-worker was a white female.

Trouble began when a new supervisor came on board. Brown said she was disrespectful, rude and acted like “a dictator.” Eventually, the supervisor fired Brown after receiving complaints about million-dollar orders going astray.

Brown sued, alleging race discrimination and harassment. But the company trotted out disciplinary records for both employees. It looked as if the supervisor gave the white co-worker an equally bad time. In fact, she fired the white female, too. (Brown v. Harcourt School Publishers, No. 6:05-CV-1141, MD FL, 2006)  

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