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Employees fighting? Sort out facts, punish accordingly

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

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)

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