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Consistently apply work rules to steer clear of charges of discrimination

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Beware making exceptions to the rules. That can look like discrimination if a disgruntled employee who doesn’t receive the same exception spots a pattern suggesting unfair favoritism.

If you do find it necessary to deviate from your usual rules, document the underlying reason and tie it directly to meeting your operational needs.

Recent case: Raoul, who is Filipino, worked as a police sergeant at a state hospital.

For a while, he was able to adjust his starting time to accommodate dropping his daughter off at day care. Then Raoul got a new supervisor who said there would be no schedule changes allowed to accommodate child care needs.

Eventually, Raoul transferred to a later shift.

But he also sued, alleging that he was being discriminated against on account of his national origin. He claimed that white police officers were allowed to change their shifts to make child care drop-offs easier.

The state countered that no one was allowed to change shifts for child care problems, and that any other shift changes had been made because of operational needs. For example, the supervisor allowed employees to modify their shifts to attend classes intended to improve their effectiveness at work.

The court dismissed Raoul’s lawsuit. He hadn’t shown that any shift changes provided to non-Filipino officers were for child care needs. Therefore, he hadn’t shown that he was being discriminated against because of race or national origin. (Flaviano v. California Department of State Hospitals, No. 14-05671, ND CA, 2017)

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