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Keep old handbooks to back up discipline decisions

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

Are you relying on company rules or the employee handbook to justify a disciplinary action such as a suspension or termination? If so, make sure you keep a copy of the handbook as it existed at the time of your decision.

This is particularly important if you maintain the handbook in electronic form—be sure to save and date prior versions so you can refer back to them and prove to a court what the book said when you disciplined the employee.

Recent case: Brad McAdams, who is black, was a manager of an AutoZone store and had problems with a district manager he claimed used derogatory slang.

AutoZone fired McAdams for giving a store key to an employee who was about to be promoted to assistant manager. McAdams claimed the company manual said he could. He sued for race discrimination. When AutoZone came to court, it didn’t have a copy of the manual and couldn’t refute McAdams’ claim. Therefore, the court took McAdams’ word for what was in the manual. (McAdams v. AutoZone, No. 1:05-CV-01021, MD NC, 2007)

Final note: In this case, the employer won the case anyway because it had replaced McAdams with a black female.

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