You never know which fired employee might sue or for what reason. That’s why you should always carefully document all discipline, up to and including the final reason for discharge.
The fact is, a legitimate business reason almost always defeats a discrimination claim.
Recent case: Richard worked for FedEx for over two decades. Like other employees, Richard had a discount FedEx account that he could use for personal shipments. However, company rules prohibited using the account for commercial purposes.
When an audit showed that Richard had used his personal account to ship 382 commercial packages promoting a friend’s window-cleaning business, he was fired.
He sued, alleging reverse race discrimination and age bias.
The case was dismissed when Richard couldn’t point to anyone else working in the same facility under the same supervisor who had shipped nearly as many packages in violation of the rules. The court concluded that FedEx had a perfectly legitimate reason to fire Richard. (Carey v. Federal Express, No. 11-3898, 3rd Cir., 2013)
Final note: Want to make sure there aren’t any discrimination cases lurking in your disciplinary files? Conduct an informal audit.
List all disciplinary actions and see if similar conduct resulted in similar discipline. If it did, then there’s practically no chance that you will lose a discrimination case based on allegations that you singled out a member of a protected class for particularly harsh discipline.