Organizations create rules for a reason—mainly to ensure order and fairness. So when a manager or supervisor bends the rules just for some people, he or she may be setting up the organization for a lawsuit. Essentially, the exceptions become the rule, and employees who don’t benefit may sue, alleging discrimination based on a protected characteristic.
Recent case: Shawn Manns, who is black, worked for the city of Atlanta as a fire captain. When a boss said his performance was “the worst he had ever seen,” Manns became worried. Eventually, the fire department demoted him.
The city had a disciplinary program that included paid suspensions. Sometimes bent the rules to allow those who weren’t facing discipline to take a paid disciplinary leave. In fact, two white employees were allowed to take paid disciplinary leave for mental health reasons.
Manns claimed his demotion and other work pressures made him eligible for paid disciplinary leave. When the fire department turned down his request, Manns sued, claiming that the department discriminated against him by not providing a benefit it had offered to others. The city argued that a disciplinary program wasn’t a “benefit” and therefore he had not been denied a benefit because of race. But the court disagreed because the city had bent the rules for others. It refused to dismiss the claim. (Manns v. City of Atlanta, No. 1:06-CV-0609, ND GA, 2008)
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