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Management won’t back boss’s discipline? That’s not automatically discrimination

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

A supervisor can’t successfully sue for discrimination merely because management fails to back up his decision to discipline a subordinate. The supervisor must prove that management didn’t support his decision because of his membership in a protected class. To do that, he would have to show that someone outside his protected group had been treated differently.

Recent case: Jeffrey worked in a correctional facility, supervising other corrections officers. He was vocal about his disdain for supervisors he suspected of having sexual affairs with their subordinates.

Several times, female subordinates refused to obey Jeffrey’s orders.

He complained to his supervisors about the defiance, but they did nothing to discipline Jeffrey’s difficult female employees.

He suspected their lack of support was somehow related to his opinions about superior/subordinate sexual relations. Jeffrey sued, alleging sex discrimination.

But the court said Jeffrey hadn’t presented enough evidence that sex discrimination was actually occurring. Jeffrey never showed that female supervisors whose subordinates refused to follow their directives were backed up when they complained to management. (Williams v. City of New York, No. 11-Civ-9679, SD NY, 2012)

Final note: Jeffrey seemed to be arguing that he was targeted because he opposed sexual harassment. How­­ever, he never made a connection between his opposition to the alleged affairs that were going on and his problems getting female subordinates to obey him. Neither did he show that managers were actually having affairs and refused to back him to prevent him from exposing their relationships.

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