Employees who are terminated for disciplinary infractions often claim they were singled out because of bias against some protected characteristic. But the fact is, every employee belongs to some protected class—whether based on sex, age, race, disability or another characteristic.
The only way to protect against discrimination lawsuits is to thoroughly document every disciplinary action. Be sure to include details that explain the punishment.
Often, those details will make it impossible for the employee’s lawyers to find someone outside their client’s protected classification who committed a similar offense but escaped the punishment their client got.
Recent case: Jeffrey Opsatnik, who is white and over age 40, worked as a Norfolk Southern locomotive engineer for 10 years until he was fired for safety violations. On his last trip, he was operating a train hauling hazardous chemicals when the weather turned bad. The dispatcher radioed and told him to run the train no faster than 40 mph. Opsatnik ignored the order.
The train arrived safely, but Norfolk Southern checked the train’s speed recorder and cited Opsatnik with excessive speed. Because this was his fourth disciplinary action, he was terminated.
Opsatnik sued, alleging that black, female and younger engineers had not been fired for similar violations.
The court went through the railroad’s disciplinary records and concluded that none was treated more favorably than Opsatnik. In each case, the engineers had either been punished for a first—not fourth—incident or for an issue unrelated to safety (such as attendance). The court dismissed the lawsuit. Simply put, Opsatnik couldn’t find anyone outside his classification who was treated better. (Opsatnik v. Norfolk Southern, No. 08-2177, 3rd Cir., 2009)
Like what you've read? ...Republish it and share great business tips!
Attention: Readers, Publishers, Editors, Bloggers, Media, Webmasters and more...
We believe great content should be read and passed around. After all, knowledge IS power. And good business can become great with the right information at their fingertips. If you'd like to share any of the insightful articles on BusinessManagementDaily.com, you may republish or syndicate it without charge.
The only thing we ask is that you keep the article exactly as it was written and formatted. You also need to include an attribution statement and link to the article.
" This information is proudly provided by Business Management Daily.com: http://www.businessmanagementdaily.com/9902/track-disciplinary-details-to-stop-bias-suits "