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Worker says different punishment shows bias? Your good records will save you in court

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

You know you should discipline all workers fairly and equitably, with similar punishment for all who break the same rule. That doesn’t mean breaking the same rule always means identical punishment.

As long as you have a good and well-documented reason that shows why each situation differed, your decision won’t be second-guessed later.

Recent case: Eric, who is not white, was fired from his part-time job at UPS after he refused a driving assignment.

He sued, alleging race discrimi­nation. As proof, he pointed to a white driver who also turned down an assignment but wasn’t terminated. He said that showed discrimination.

But UPS was ready with solid evidence showing why the two earned different punishments. While Eric turned down an assignment that was part of his regular job, the white em­­ployee—a full-time driver—merely was asked whether he would complete the assignment Eric turned down. He refused.

That was a crucial difference, the court concluded. Eric had refused an assignment that was part of his regular duties while the other em­­ployee merely refused extra work. The case was dismissed. (Kelly v. UPS, No. 12-2343, 4th Cir., 2013)

Final note: Lawsuits can take years and you simply won’t remember the details unless you have good notes to refresh your memory. Write down all reasons for discipline. Make your notes specific and complete.

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