You are an on-the-ball employer. You have an updated employee handbook with a disciplinary policy. You do training to educate your employees about company policies. You use your best efforts to implement policies fairly.
However, there may come a time when an employee who has been disciplined for a policy violation may complain that they were treated unfairly. You may ask, what do I do? Well, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has some guidance for you.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, known as the EEOC, is the federal agency responsible for enforcing various federal laws that deal with employment discrimination, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC has various resources that are targeted to help businesses better comply with the laws. So when employers are asking themselves what to do, why not hear it from the horse’s mouth. Here is what the EEOC suggests.
First, “[a]sk the employee to: Explain why he believes he was treated differently than other employees; and identify other employees who he believes were treated more favorably.”
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Second, “[m]eet with the manager(s) involved in those disciplinary decisions, and [a]sk them to: Explain the disciplinary actions imposed on the employee and others who committed similar infractions; and Explain the reason(s) for these actions, including the reason(s) any employees may have been treated differently or better than other employees who committed similar infractions.”
Third, “[d]etermine whether the disciplinary policy was consistently applied.” This would include determining whether other employees who committed the same or similar infractions were punished in a similar manner as well as the disciplinary history of those employees.
Once you have done these initial steps, “[i]If you find evidence of discrimination, ensure that the discrimination stops immediately, correct any effects of the discrimination, and prevent it from happening again.” However, “[i]If you determine that the punishment was warranted, inform the employee. It may be helpful to explain the steps you took to investigate the complaint, the results of the investigation, and the basis for your decision.”
If you have any questions about this or other employment discrimination laws, please contact the attorney of your choice.
Sarah Phaff is an attorney at Gorby Peters & Associates focused on finding practical solutions for her clients.