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.
- Whether layoff affects one or 100, use solid business reasons to justify job cuts
- Wise up to national-origin bias rules; claims spiked in 2002
- Lessons from the 2006 SHRM conference: Online-Only Handbooks: a risky legal proposition
- Leave this ugly legacy for the history books: Warn bosses against any reference to nooses
- Terminating after FMLA leave expires? Be sure to apply rule consistently