Many employers keep their disciplinary policies vaguely worded because they want some flexibility in dealing with employee behavior. That’s fine as long as you carefully document why you are punishing one employee more harshly than another.
Recent case: Roy Baldon, a black Avis rental car shuttle driver at O’Hare International Airport, was fired for dishonesty and “theft of time” after he took an unauthorized lunch break and lied to his boss about it.
He sued, alleging another driver who is not black was punished more leniently. That driver had a pair of sunglasses he found in a car, but never lied about where he got them. Plus, no customer had reported lost or stolen sunglasses.
The court said Avis had shown it treated the two employees differently based on their specific behavior. (Baldon v. Avis Rent-a-Car, No. 09-C-3778, ND IL, 2010)