Sometimes, two employees who break the same rule don’t deserve exactly the same punishment. But employers must make sure they can explain the difference.
Recent case: Audra was fired after admitting she sent confidential information to her father, who was preparing to open a business that would compete with Audra’s employer. A male worker was also accused of misappropriating information. He denied doing so and wasn’t fired.
Audra sued, alleging sex discrimination. She lost because she had admitted her wrongdoing, while the other employee had not. (Newton-Haskoor v. Coface, No. 12-2639, 3rd Cir., 2013)
Final note: Presumably, the company didn’t fire the other employee because it didn’t have convincing evidence that he did what he was suspected to have done. (This case also shows that some employees will confess wrongdoing if asked.)