Employees who don’t show up for work wreak havoc with productivity. That’s why you have an attendance policy and punish violators.
You know you can’t go easy on one person for attendance problems and come down hard on another for the same offense—especially if he or she belongs to a protected class. But, as the following case shows, courts will conclude a discipline process wasn’t discriminatory if you can show that tardiness or affected important work goals, such as productivity.
Recent case: Wesley Greene, who is black, had a habit of arriving late—or not showing up at all—to his job at the U.S. Postal Service. Because most sorting work occurs in the morning, it is especially important for all employees to be ready and able to work then.
During one three-month period, Greene was late or a no-show 26 times. The Postal Service fired him for violating its attendance policy. Greene sued, claiming that a white employee also violated the attendance policy 26 times during the same three months but wasn’t fired. But managers said that situation was different because the white employee always arrived at work on time. His attendance problem revolved around habitually returning late from lunch. Supervisors said those late returns didn’t interfere with postal operations, while Greene’s did.
The court bought the Postal Service’s reasoning and dismissed the lawsuit. The white employee and Greene hadn’t committed the same rule violation, and therefore one could be punished more harshly than the other. (Greene v. Potter, No. 06-30953, 5th Cir., 2007)
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Think carefully about how work restrictions will play out following FMLA leave
- Too small for FMLA? Think again; you may be an 'integrated employer'
- What's up, doc? How to collect medical info under new FMLA rules
- You can require absent employees to follow call-In process