Set an example: It’s OK to punish managers more harshly than subordinates — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Set an example: It’s OK to punish managers more harshly than subordinates

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Impressions do matter, and employers are free to demand more of supervisors and managers than of those who sit lower on the company totem pole. All else being equal, you can treat it as a more serious violation when someone in authority breaks the same rule as an underling.

You can even fire Mr. Big, while letting subordinates off with relatively lesser punishment.

Recent case: When two managers for Laboratory Corporation of America and two subordinates set up their own real estate web site promising buyers and sellers their full-time attention, it didn’t take long for their employer to investigate.

After calling the phone number on the web site during a normal workday and getting one of the managers on the line, the company concluded that all four employees might be violating rules by running a second business. The company investigated and decided to fire the two managers, but reprimanded the subordinates.

 One of the managers sued, alleging age, religious and national-origin discrimination because he was a 48-year-old Jewish male of Cuban origins.

The court dismissed his lawsuit. It pointed out that the company also fired the second manager, a younger white female. Thus, the manager had not been treated differently than the other employee who held a similar position with the company.

The court said the company was free to punish the subordinates more leniently. (Sznapstajler v. Laboratory Company of America, No. 08-60511, SD FL, 2009)

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