You don’t always have to punish two employees who break the same rule exactly alike. Just make sure you explain the difference for the record. That kind of documentation will prove crucial if an employee decides to sue.
Recent case: Finland worked for the Gaston County YMCA as a bus driver, picking up children at schools and transporting them to an after-school program at the Y. Another employee rode along as a bus monitor. Both were responsible for the children’s safety.
One day, a seven-year-old boy fell asleep in one of the back seats. While the other kids got off at the after-school program, the bus monitor missed the sleeping boy.
Finland found him and then walked ahead of the boy on his way to turn in the bus keys. By the time he arrived at the office door, he had lost track of the boy. He turned in his keys and went back to the parking lot to find the child. By then, the boy had already made his way to the center on his own. Finland was fired.
He sued because the bus monitor hadn’t been fired, even though she was responsible for child safety, too.
The Y told the court it considered Finland’s transgression more serious. First, the bus monitor was a new employee who had gotten overwhelmed by the number of children. Finland, on the other hand, didn’t make an innocent mistake but knowingly left the child in the lot. He had done the same thing before. The court agreed that deserved more severe punishment. (Fair v. Gaston County YMCA, 3:11-CV-524, WD NC, 2013)