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OK to set unique policies for unique problems

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Sometimes, an unusual workplace situation or problem may require an equally unique rule. For example, if theft is rampant in one department, it’s certainly justified to implement a special policy that seeks to stop the thievery.

Recent case: David was 63 years old when he was fired from his hospital job as an x-ray technician. Over the course of a few years, patients complained that while they were being x-rayed, cash would disappear from their wallets or purses. This only seemed to happen when David was the technician on duty.

The hospital came up with a new workplace rule that said the x-ray technician had to help the patient secure his or her belongings before being x-rayed. Patient property was placed in a container and locked, with the patient holding the key.

After the rule went into effect, David was chastised for not complying and warned that ignoring the rule could result in termination.

Then yet another patient complained that cash disappeared from his pants while he was x-rayed. The hospital investigated and concluded that David had not locked up the patient’s property. It terminated David for ignoring the rule.

David sued, alleging age discrimination.

The hospital said it fired him for violating the rule. David countered that other departments didn’t require workers to lock up patient property and this was evidence that the rule was dreamed up as an excuse to fire him because of his age.

But the court dismissed that argument. It reasoned that if other hospital departments were not experiencing any problems with theft, they weren’t required to implement policies to prevent it. They were free to have different workplace rules.

David’s department only came up with the rule to solve a known problem. His lawsuit was dismissed. (Contreras v. George L. Mee Memorial Hospital, ND CA, 2017)

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