When you fire or otherwise discipline an employee for breaking a work rule, can you show he knew about the rule? What about his co-workers and supervisors? Did they interpret the rule the same way? If not, you may have a hard time justifying disciplining one employee for breaking the rule.
Plus, the disciplining manager may be called to testify about other employees he disciplined or didn’t discipline, and whether they understood the rules. Then, a lawyer may be able to use any confusion to show the disciplined employee should have been excused for not understanding it either.
Recent case: Sears fired Willard Keene after his boss accused him of discounting merchandise in violation of Sears’ rules on discounting. But the same boss apparently ignored it when other associates also allowed discounts. Those employees gave conflicting descriptions of when Sears allowed discounting.
Keene filed an age-discrimination lawsuit. In pretrial proceedings, the court said Keene could call the manager to the stand to ask him about other employees’ interpretations of the discounting rules. Plus, the manager would have to answer questions about his own interpretation of the rule. Any inconsistencies will help Keene explain why he didn’t think he did anything wrong when he gave discounts. (Keene v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., No. 05-828, DC NJ, 2007)
Bottom line: Some rules are so obvious they don’t need to be stated. Thus, an employer clearly could punish an employee for stealing merchandise even if there is no specific rule against it. But when rules deal with how one does one’s job, rather than with clearly and obviously illegal conduct, you should be prepared to show that employees understand what’s OK and what’s not.
Like what you've read? ...Republish it and share great business tips!
Attention: Readers, Publishers, Editors, Bloggers, Media, Webmasters and more...
We believe great content should be read and passed around. After all, knowledge IS power. And good business can become great with the right information at their fingertips. If you'd like to share any of the insightful articles on BusinessManagementDaily.com, you may republish or syndicate it without charge.
The only thing we ask is that you keep the article exactly as it was written and formatted. You also need to include an attribution statement and link to the article.
" This information is proudly provided by Business Management Daily.com: http://www.businessmanagementdaily.com/3594/confusing-work-rules-can-become-evidence-in-court "
- Worried about ADA: Can we discipline for misbehavior caused by medical condition?
- Employees' 'Injuries' from Sexual Harassment May Make Them Eligible for Workers' Comp Benefits
- Train supervisors on new risk of workplace retaliation
- Police called in response to workplace harassment? You must still act to stop future incidents
- The danger of hiring 'Best of the worst' from résumé pile