You never know which employee will file a discrimination lawsuit. These surprise lawsuits often allege that the employer disciplined others outside the employee’s protected class less severely for the same transgression.
Protect your organization by providing detailed reasons for any discipline at the time it occurs. That will make it easier for you to explain different punishments later.
Recent case: Maya Balakrishnan graduated from medical school in India and came to the U.S. for additional training in psychiatry. After attending two other medical schools as part of her residency, she landed at Louisiana State University College of Medicine for her final two years.
During her final year, she was asked whether she had passed the United States Medical Licensing Step Three Exam. Balakrishnan said she had passed the exam; in reality, she had failed it. At some point, she even provided a falsified score report to the residency program director.
When officials discovered the truth, they refused to certify Balakrishnan’s completion of the residency program because certification requires demonstrating professionalism. The hospital reasoned that it’s not professional to falsify exam results.
Balakrishnan sued, alleging discrimination based on race or national origin.
She argued that a white resident was not denied completion certification when he was arrested for driving under the influence. The hospital’s records showed that the two situations were different. One was an isolated criminal act, while the other was a material misrepresentation about passing a benchmark examination in the profession.
The court agreed that the two transgressions were not comparable and dismissed the case. (Balakrishnan v. Louisiana State University College of Medicine, No. 10-31209, 5th Cir., 2011)
Final note: Documentation of the DUI incident won this case.
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Why employees harass: The top targets
- Intoxicated and driving during working hours: How should our policy address this problem?
- Worker claims negligent supervision caused harassment? She must sue under Title VII
- Turn loners into teammates