If you decide to deviate from your usual rules, make sure you have a legitimate business-related reason for doing so. Otherwise, you risk potential litigation if the affected employee claims the real reason you made an exception was his protected status.
Recent case: Paul, who is black and of Jamaican origins, worked as a seafood inspector. From the time he first arrived on the job, he claimed supervisors treated him differently than other employees in largely petty ways. For example, he didn’t receive a welcome letter until much later than most employees.
When Paul sued over a litany of slights, the court tossed out almost all his claims. However, one remained.
Paul had alleged that his supervisors once refused to reimburse him for expenses he incurred while traveling to inspection sites. The payments were clearly required under the employer’s workplace rules.
When questioned, no one could come up with a reason for denying the payments. And other inspectors never had a problem with getting reimbursed.
Because the employer had no explanation, the court said the claim could go to trial. (Cotterell v. Gilmore, et al., No. 12-CV-3808, ED NY, 2014)
Final note: Beware bosses who seem out to get a particular employee. Make them justify any treatment that differs from the way they treat other workers. While you may not lose a lawsuit like this one, it usually isn’t worth the time and hassle that a lawsuit requires to defend against a claimed vendetta.
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