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Keep good disciplinary records, win lawsuits

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in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management,Human Resources

You know how important it is to consistently apply disciplinary rules and ensure no form of bias creeps into the disciplinary process.

That’s one reason it’s crucial for HR to keep disciplinary records on file. If employees allege that you disciplined them in a discriminatory way, you’ll be able to show no one was treated more favorably than anyone else.

Recent case: Christus St. Joseph Hospital told Helen Jefferson and several other nurses, psychiatric technicians and therapists that they had to take a skills survey. The computer-based knowledge assessment was designed to take between 30 and 45 minutes to complete.

When the results came back, some employees achieved high scores—despite spending less than four minutes to complete the exam. Naturally, the hospital got suspicious and suspected cheating.

To test for cheating, the hospital required those who had finished in a suspiciously short time to retest with a proctor. This time, hospital administrators said, they had to score within five points of their original score, but could take no more than three minutes longer than their first time to finish.

Nine black employees, including Jefferson, failed to meet the retest requirements and were fired.

They sued, alleging they had been targeted based on their race or national origin.

But the hospital pointed out that a white employee also had to be retested. He, though, completed the survey within the retesting requirements. In addition, a black employee who barely missed the time limit, but raised her score significantly from the first score, was also not terminated.

That was enough to convince the court that race or national origin discrimination was not at work. It tossed out the case. (Jefferson, et al., v. Christus St. Joseph Hospital, No. 09-20410, 5th Cir., 2010)

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