Employees who are disciplined sometimes think they’ve been treated unfairly. Some inevitably look for some nefarious reason—like sex, age or race discrimination—to explain the injustice they suffered.
Often, though, those employees don’t know all the facts. After all, they aren’t privy to the inner workings of the company’s disciplinary system. They don’t know if their cases are all that similar to another employee’s case.
That won’t stop some from suing, though. And when their lawsuits reach court, you’ll have to turn over your disciplinary records and prepare to show why you decided on the discipline you chose for each employee. It’s the only way you can prove you did treat everyone fairly.
Recent case: Eddie Powell, who is black, worked for the town of Sharpsburg and had a rocky relationship with work. He threatened to quit several times, but his bosses convinced him to stay. Then, after his supervisor received several calls about Powell’s driving while using a town vehicle, he received a written warning.
He sued, alleging white employees hadn’t been given written warnings for similar driving.
But the town could show the details of each driving incident, and no white employee had been treated more leniently than Powell. (Powell v. Town of Sharpsburg, No. 4:06-CV-117, ED NC, 2009)
Final note: The more detailed your disciplinary notes, the easier to distinguish one offense from another. Employees who sue must prove a co-worker committed a substantially similar offense, and the details often show that isn’t true.
- Discharging ill employee for performance? Better make sure you can prove it
- You can insist on investigation confidentiality
- Court: No free lawyer unless case has real merit
- Long history of misconduct? Document every step of disciplinary process
- Borderline harassment worry? Take it seriously before it escalates into a lawsuit