Here’s a good rule of thumb when disciplining employees: Consider it a given that if discipline leads to termination, the entire disciplinary decision-making process will be challenged in court.
That’s why you must carefully document every disciplinary action, starting with warnings. That way, you will have a clean record showing why the employee deserved to be disciplined or fired.
Recent case: Golf resort employee Brenda Peppers, who is black, filed an EEOC complaint alleging race discrimination. Within a few months, she was terminated after accumulating five “performance citations” over just six weeks.
Peppers sued, alleging she was fired in retaliation for her EEOC complaint. She claimed a white employee wasn’t fired for conduct worse than hers.
The club countered that the white employee only received one performance citation, while Peppers received five from four different supervisors, each of whom alleged incidents of poor service or rudeness. Because the incidents were well-documented, it was clear to the court that the two employees weren’t similarly situated. (Peppers v. Traditions Golf Club, No. 11-1111235, 11th Cir., 2012)
Final note: Peppers also alleged that a manager who knew about her EEOC complaint issued one of the citations and didn’t question the other four citations. This, she reasoned, tainted the entire process and showed that the manager merely rubber-stamped the complaints against her.
The court didn’t buy it. There was absolutely no evidence that the four other managers knew anything about her EEOC complaint, or that their complaints weren’t true.
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