Do you know for sure that your supervisors equally punish employees who break the same workplace rules? If not, it’s time to conduct an internal audit.
Check disciplinary records against your employees’ protected characteristics. There should be no obvious pattern showing more severe punishment for members of some protected classes and not others.
Recent case: Monica, who is black, was fired from her job as a medical equipment specialist with Keystone Mercy Health Plan. The insurer said Monica was terminated because of routine tardiness and because she had been rude on the phone and hung up on a caller.
She sued, alleging that white co-workers were also guilty of coming in late and being rude, but hadn’t been fired.
The court said her lawsuit should continue. Now Keystone Mercy will have to prove that it punished all late and rude employees the same way regardless of race, sex or other characteristics. (Sample v. Keystone Mercy Health Plan, No. 12-3188, ED PA, 2012)
Final note: Here’s how to conduct an informal audit. Pull all disciplinary actions occurring during a sample time frame, such as a year. Sort them by the rule that was broken. If everyone who broke the same rule received the same punishment, you’re fine.
If there are differences, identify reasons for the deviations, such as severity or repeat offenses. That lets you compare apples to apples.
Then check for patterns based on race, age, etc. If you find problems, contact your attorney to determine how you should proceed.