There are times that an employee can get away with behavior that you otherwise wouldn’t tolerate. During a busy period, for example, you might be more forgiving of tardiness than when things are slower. After all, when things are busy, a late employee may be better than no employee.
But if you ignore tardiness, are you forever condemned to tolerate it? Of course not, as a recent case makes clear. Still, consistency is always the best practice.
Recent case: For more than a year, Hossam routinely arrived late to work. He was counseled but not disciplined. But then he also began treating customers poorly, didn’t return merchandise to its proper place and otherwise displayed a deteriorating attitude. He was terminated.
Hossam sued, alleging discrimination based on race and age. He questioned why his attendance, though not exactly perfect, was ignored one year and then used as a reason to fire him the next.
The court said it was up to the employer to determine when discipline was necessary. Providing additional chances to improve performance isn’t something the court wants to discourage. Employers are free to delay or forego discipline. (Kassem v. Walgreens, No. 14-3644, 3rd Cir., 2015)
Final note: Be sure you can explain why you delayed discipline or decided not to terminate an employee. That way, if someone else claims he or she was disciplined for the same thing, you can tell the court why one worker got a break and another didn’t.