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Document all the details when disciplining

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Ever been tempted to skip a careful analysis of why an employee deserves discipline such as termination? That’s a bad idea.

The fact is, you never know which discharged employee will sue and what he will allege. The only way to prepare is with a thoroughly documented disciplinary file that shows exactly why you made the decision.

Include all the details—like, for example, the fact the employee wasn’t honest during an investigation.

Recent case: Michael, who is black, took a backhoe home to his garage over lunch so he could try to remove a tree stump. His employer had a strict rule against using company equipment for personal purposes.

It emphasized the rule during training for all employees, and company records showed Michael had received training. Another company rule on which employees were trained provided that employees must be honest during any investigation into wrongdoing.

Someone apparently saw and filmed Michael using the backhoe at home and went to management. Michael was called in to discuss the matter and denied using the backhoe. When confronted with video evidence, he said he hadn’t realized company rules prohibited doing so.

He was fired for using the backhoe for personal gain and for lying during the investigation.

Michael sued, alleging that three white co-workers had not been fired for using company equipment for personal gain.

But company disciplinary records explained the difference. All three white co-workers quickly admitted their rule violation. That made a huge difference to the court, which said Michael had not shown the white co-workers were similarly situated because they had not denied breaking the rules.

The company was free to treat those who confessed differently from those who denied doing anything wrong until confronted with video evidence. (Diggs v. Niagara Mohawk, No. 1:14-2494, ND NY, 2016)

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