To win a discrimination lawsuit, employees must be able to show they met their employers’ reasonable expectations. If they weren’t doing their jobs, then it’s difficult to blame any adverse employment action on discrimination.
That’s one reason job descriptions and employee handbooks should include examples of reasonable expectations. For example, while it may seem obvious that an employee needs permission to leave the workplace, spelling it out removes all doubt.
Recent case: Vernon Guion, who is black, was placed on temporary leave after his doctor said Guion should not be exposed to the fumes present in his workplace. He was an electroplater helper at the Naval Air Depot in Cherry Point and claimed he was “chemical reactive.”
Guion’s health care provider later determined he could return to work and sent a letter clearing him. But, because Guion was away from home (it turned out he was working elsewhere for several weeks), he didn’t return to work by the date his doctor said he could. When Guion did report to work, he wandered off without telling his supervisor. Guion was reminded that work rules required him to tell his supervisors before leaving the facility.
Guion sued, alleging race discrimination. But the court tossed out the case.
In race discrimination claims, employees have to show they were meeting their employers’ reasonable expectations. Guion failed that test because he ignored existing work rules that required employees on leave to stay in touch with their doctors, to return to work as soon as medically cleared and to stay on the premises unless excused by a supervisor. (Guion v. England, No. 4:06-CV-70, ED NC, 2008)
Final note: Good documentation wins lawsuits. Employers that can show that the employee charging discrimination was a rule-breaker often win an early dismissal.
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