How to show you don’t discriminate: Track all discipline and punish equitably — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

How to show you don’t discriminate: Track all discipline and punish equitably

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At some point, a former employee will sue your organization for discrimination. The typical argument: Someone not in the same protected class as the employee was treated more leniently.

How will you show that’s not true? By carefully tracking all disciplinary actions and making sure you impose the same punishment on everyone who breaks the same rule. That means tracking every warning, suspension and other forms of discipline—and documenting the details of each incident.

Recent case: James Stone, who is black, was terminated from his position with a parks and recreation department after receiving numerous warnings. For example, he was warned after allegedly stealing sodas, for bringing his wife to work and for failing to lock up the facilities when leaving for the day.

When a female employee accused Stone of harassing her, the department finally fired him.

He sued, alleging that white employees had been treated more favorably. For example, he claimed that a white employee was merely warned after giving a private golf lesson while still on the clock at work.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Stone’s claims. The court said his employer had shown that Stone had many more disciplinary problems than the white employees he was comparing himself with. That justified Stone’s discharge. (Stone v. Parish of East Baton Rouge, No. 08-31008, 5th Cir., 2009)

Final note: Conduct your own internal mini-audit to check for fairness before terminating any employee.

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