Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) April 3, 2013 – Usually an employer disciplines everyone to the same extent. There are exceptions to that rule.
“In most cases where a worker has done something requiring discipline in the workplace, the same discipline is handed out to others who commit similar offenses. In theory that works. In practice, it may not,” commented Timothy Coffey, a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace.
Not every instance of an infraction of workplace rules will necessarily draw the same degree of punishment. It depends on the nature of the infraction, or the degree of the infraction to begin with. One person may be suspended, but another may be fired. Is there a lawsuit in there? “There may be, unless the employer kept detailed records of everything that transpired and why one person was let go, but another was only suspended,” Coffey explained.
The details pertaining to any sanctions in the workplace must be carefully documented to indicate why one form of punishment was used versus another. “If such a case gets to court, and the records are clear, it is likely a judge would adhere to the written record,” Coffey added. Consider this case, Hoffman v. Bradley University, No. 11-1086, CD IL, 2012.
The plaintiff, a North Korean, worked as a police officer at a University. He fell on the job and required shoulder surgery. He was moved to a light-duty position while he attended physiotherapy twice a week. At this time, the man’s supervisor started to harass him and give him scut work to perform. He complained to the Human Resources (HR) department.
Around about the time he complained to HR, another police officer stated he had seen the plaintiff and someone else steal T-shirts from a campus store. The plaintiff insisted his shirt was given to him at a special event. The other officer admitted she stole the shirt, and finally, the plaintiff also admitted he had taken more than one item of clothing. He was subsequently fired, while the other officer was suspended.
The plaintiff opted to file a race discrimination and retaliation claim, alleging he was the butt of ethnic jokes about his eyes. He suggested he should never have been fired, but suspended, like the other individual. At trial, it was clear that the University suspended the other officer because she admitted immediately she was guilty and pled for another chance to prove herself. The plaintiff had not been as honest.
Based on that difference in circumstances, the court found for the defendant, stating the difference was more than justification for suspending one officer and firing the other.
Timothy Coffey is a Chicago employment lawyer and principal attorney for The Coffey Law Office, P. C., an employment litigation firm dedicated to representing employees in the workplace. To learn more or to contact a Chicago employment attorney, visit http://www.employmentlawcounsel.com
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