An employee who belongs to a protected class can win a discrimination lawsuit if she shows that a similarly situated co-worker who doesn’t belong to the same protected class got more lenient treatment than she did for the same rule violation or behavior.
Therefore, be prepared to show in every case that you treated all employees equally. While it is the employee’s burden to show she was treated unequally, you can remove any doubt.
Recent case: Robin Simmons-Blount, who is black, resigned her teacher position after she got into a shoving match with a white student.
She then sued, alleging that a teacher she assumed was white wasn’t forced to resign after a similar tussle with a black student.
But Simmons-Blount couldn’t show that the other teacher was in fact white—so the court dismissed her lawsuit. (Simmons-Blount v. Guildford County, No. 1:06-CV-944, MD NC, 2009)