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Beware disciplining by withholding pay raises

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in Compensation and Benefits,Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Any adverse employment action—including withholding an ex­­pected pay increase—can form the basis for a discrimination lawsuit. If you hold back raises to punish rule-breaking, make sure you can show you do so impartially.

Recent case: Marge, who is over age 40, worked at a Rite Aid pharmacy. She sued after her store closed and she was terminated. Marge claimed she had been discriminated against.

Among her allegations: She had been aggressively investigated and denied a raise when she was caught in possession of a single prescription drug pill, which violated company policy. She said a younger pharmacist who broke the same rule received a raise.

The court said her case could go to trial, based on the different treatment she alleged.

Fortunately for Rite Aid, Marge lost her other claims, including allegations that she was not offered a transfer to another location while others were. That may limit the payout, as all Marge has lost (and can recover) is the raise amount, calculated back to the date the store closed and she lost her job. (Iannucci v. Rite Aid, No. 1:11-CV-281, WD NC, 2012)

Final note: Someone in HR should monitor all discipline. On a regular basis, perform an informal internal audit. List every disciplinary action, along with the specific reasons the employee was disciplined. Then compare all ­disciplinary actions to see if the same rule violation always produces the same punishment. If so, no problem.

But if there are differences, you need to know why. Place a detailed explanation in the audit file in case of litigation down the road.

Be especially careful if it looks as if a specific supervisor is handing out different punishments. That may indicate bias. Compare his subordinates’ EEO characteristics (age, race, etc.) to look for a pattern.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Julia April 17, 2015 at 7:50 am

I work in the accounts department and back in September I tore my disc and at present still waiting to see a specialist. I had to have three weeks off and as my employer only gives 10 days sick, I work part-time 25 hours a week, I had to use my holiday I had left otherwise have just SSP. Once I returned there was quite a lot of work to do and Christmas we had extra days off, which meant I was falling behind at year end. I could not work overtime as I was relying on people bringing me in to work and also to go home. I offered to work New Years Eve to enable me to go through any post and catch up a few things but I received a text from my boss telling me not to bother coming in as I was not needed. I thought that this was strange as She was going in anyway to close the ledgers and one of the other accounts people was going in. In the new year I was taken into the office and told I was not going to get my pay rise as I was not doing overtime and I had made quite a few mistakes. I admit I had made some mistakes but having to rush everything because of having less time to do everything, I was even asked for information for year end before I had even had chance to do anything in the New Year. Can you tell me if this was a legal move as |I do feel I was discriminated against even though I had tried my best? I am still reliant on getting lifts to train stations as I do not drive and I was cycling but can no longer ride my bike due to my back injury.

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