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Track all discipline to prove you don’t discriminate when punishing employees

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Employee lawsuits that appear out of nowhere often involve some form of alleged discrimination against someone who believes he was disciplined more harshly than other employees.

That’s one reason you should routinely track all discipline, so you can clearly show you treat all employees alike.

Recent case: Conny, who is a black man, worked for a short time as a teaching assistant after graduating from college. He seemed to have trouble controlling his classroom when left in charge. Parents complained to administrators about the chaotic conditions. It wasn’t hard for the school to figure out the problem: Conny spent lots of time sitting down in class while wearing dark sunglasses. He was not rehired to come back the next school year.

He sued, alleging that he had been discriminated against on the basis of his race. He argued that other teaching assistants were treated more leniently for sitting down on the job.

The court tossed out the case after the school district showed it had never rehired anyone who made a habit of sitting down in class while wearing sunglasses. (Hatch v. Del Valle Independent School District, No. 12-50098, 5th Cir., 2012)

Final note: You should conduct your own informal audit to make sure there are no obvious discriminatory patterns in your discipline. All employees who break the same rule should be punished similarly. If someone deserves more severe or lenient treatment, be sure to explain exactly why, providing specific facts.

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