You must be prepared to show that you treated each and every employee equally when it comes to discipline. That means having the records to back up every rule violation and the punishment.
Otherwise, you may find yourself in the same situation as the following employer, which couldn’t recall how it had disciplined a white employee for violating an attendance rule, but fired a black employee for the same infraction.
Recent case: Kevin Stewart, who is black, worked the third shift at a Krispy Kreme bakery until he was fired for missing work. The bakery had a policy in its employee handbook that required an employee who was going to miss work to call his supervisor before the start of his shift. According to the policy, failing to call in was grounds for dismissal.
Stewart claimed he had called in, but the company fired him because he hadn’t phoned the right supervisor.
Stewart sued for race discrimination, pointing out that a white employee wasn’t fired when he was a no-show. The court listened to the testimony of someone from the HR office, who couldn’t explain what—if any—punishment the white employee suffered even though he had not called in. That was enough for the court to order a trial. (Stewart v. Amazing Glazed, dba Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, No. 05-1724, WD PA, 2007)
Advice: Keep complete and accurate records of every disciplinary action you take—including the employee involved, the circumstances of the case, the discipline you imposed and who decided the punishment.
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