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Discipline worker who complained of bias–if warranted and consistent with past practice

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in Employment Law

Employees who claim some form of discrimination are protected from retaliation, including unwarranted scrutiny and discipline leading to lost pay or other benefits. But that doesn’t mean employers can’t discipline employees who have complained.

The key is to make sure any discipline is based on legitimate concerns and doesn’t go beyond that which other employees who didn’t complain would receive.

Recent case: Darlene Goring, who is black, is a law school professor. She wasn’t promoted to full professor when she missed the application deadline by two months. She then filed a discrimination complaint, alleging nonminority professors were allowed to miss the deadline.

She added retaliation to her claim when officials came to her classroom to observe her teaching techniques.

In fact, the university did award her a full professorship the following year, after she submitted her application on time.

In court, the university said that nonminority applicants missed the deadline only by a few days, not two months. It claimed the classroom observation was the result of numerous student complaints.

The court tossed out Goring’s case. It reasoned that she hadn’t shown that other professors who were two months late got better treatment. Nor did she show that professors who got multiple student complaints hadn’t been subjected to classroom observation.

Plus, the court pointed out that when Goring actually submitted her materials on time, she got the promotion she sought. (Goring v. Louisiana State University, No. 10-30398, 5th Cir, 2011)

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