Having rules against fighting doesn’t necessarily make it easy to punish employees when punches fly. The best approach: Figure out who did what to whom, and in what order.
Recent case: Ron, who has a low IQ, worked for the same company for almost 30 years. It had a rule against fighting. When Ron’s boss, who was known to joke around, told him to get back to work, Ron asked, “What’s up your butt?” The supervisor grabbed Ron to steer him back to work. Ron then punched his boss. Ron was fired, but the supervisor was merely suspended and demoted.
Ron sued, alleging disability discrimination.
The court tossed out his case. It said employers are free to punish different behavior as they see fit—and that grabbing is less serious than hitting. (Ryan v. Capital Contractors, No. 11-2160, 8th Cir., 2012)
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Consider consulting an attorney before stating why you terminated an employee
- Looking for a quick end to harassment case? Never urge the complaining employee to resign
- More than one reason to terminate? Be sure to carefully document your rationale
- Make sure employees know where and how to report alleged sexual harassment