Employees who sue current or past employers have the burden of proving that discrimination took place. But that doesn’t mean employers should sit back and wait for employees to fail in court.
In fact, you should always be ready to prove that you treated everyone equally.
Employees who sue often claim they were discriminated against based on several characteristics—including sex, race, age, disability and some you may never have considered. When they do, you usually can win a quick dismissal by showing you treated everyone the same.
Recent case: Security guard Roger Reeves sued his employer, alleging he had been discriminated against because of his race and his Pentecostal religion.
But the security company showed the court that it treated every guard the same. Reeves couldn’t come up with any instances in which any security guard was treated differently than he had been, so the court tossed out the case. (Reeves v. DSI Security Services, et al., No. 08-13777, 11th Cir., 2009)
Final note: No law technically requires equal treatment of all employees. They just demand that you not discriminate against members of a protected class. However, treating everyone equally ensures that you don’t inadvertently discriminate against members of protected classes.
How do you prove equal treatment? By providing as much objective information as possible on how you set salaries and what qualifies employees for promotions and raises. Be prepared to prove that your disciplinary system relies on thorough investigations and independent review of all recommended discipline.
- Long history of misconduct? Document every step of disciplinary process
- Spring cleaning: Give employee handbook a thorough going-over
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