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Enforce rules fairly and even-handedly, document any differences in discipline

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Good employers discipline everyone who violates work rules, without regard for protected characteristics. That may seem obvious, but sometimes supervisors get sloppy and decide that a particular employee should be punished for a violation another employee got away with.

That’s bad policy, even if the differing discipline wasn’t the result of discrimination. It just doesn’t pass the smell test. Train managers to be fair and even-handed.

And if they decide one worker doesn’t deserve the usual discipline, make sure they document exactly why.

Recent case: Duane sold insurance products for a credit union. He also held a real estate license. The credit union had a rule against conflicts of interest in outside employment. It found out that Duane was actively selling real estate as a second job and told him to stop because of the potential conflict of interest. He refused and the credit union terminated him.

Duane sued, pointing out that a female co-worker who also sold insurance held a real estate license, but that she was not terminated.

The credit union explained that it had no evidence that she had actually been selling real estate. It said maintaining a license was not a conflict of interest; selling real estate was.

The court dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that the employer had explained why it had terminated Duane and not his co-worker. (Hutchings v. Stephens, 9th Cir., 2017)

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