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He offered the following top 10 reasons companies get sued by employees and some possible solutions: 1. A policy that is vague, evolving, or inconsistently enforced will support an employee's claim for discrimination/retaliation. Train your managers, employment law attorney Aaron Zandy, SPHR, told a packed room at his early morning session at the 2014 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition on June 24. Under company policy, employees were not allowed to clock in or out at unauthorized times without a foremans permission, but, in fact, employees frequently did so without repercussions. And assuming the policies they have are legal, Companies have the right to enforce them. 2003)). In addition to reviewing policies to make them consistent with changes in the law and changes in society, another reason to look them over is to make sure they still make sense in your workplace. Documents that are created at the time the decision is made to deviate from established policies or practices can help defeat allegations that the employer fabricated the justification after the claim was filed simply to avoid liability. For small businesses, most work rules will be optional. If your company disciplines employees for absences (as most do), make sure you are not inadvertently punishing employees for exercising their legal rights. The court reversed the denial of benefits, noting that to successfully deny benefits to employees who have been fired for violation of a company rule, the employer has to show:. Make sure they understand that harassment can take place inside and outside the workplace, he said. This article was edited and reviewed by FindLaw Attorney Writers Stateline, NV 89449 Cookie information is stored in your browser and performs functions such as recognising you when you return to our website and helping our team to understand which sections of the website you find most interesting and useful. You should state actual company practices, not a wish list, adds Linda Johnson, a partner and chair of the employment law practice in McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton, New Hampshires largest law firm. The court agreed with the EEOCs argument that a jury reasonably concluded there was retaliation for complaining about discrimination in light of Kohlers inconsistent enforcement of its policies and discipline. Michael Pickard had worked as a maintenance electrician. These policies are essential for a company to thrive; not only does a focus on DE&I foster a safe working environment (which should be reason enough), but diverse workplaces also have proven benefits from a business perspective. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employees have a right to engage in protected concerted activity. Employers who carelessly and inconsistently apply workplace policies are more likely to have employee file employment claims against them and more likely to lose those claims. The FMLA guarantees an employee, male or female, who has been working at least a year for a company with 50 or more employees the right to job-protected, 12-week, unpaid leave to recover from a serious medical condition or to care for a newborn, a newly adopted child, or a seriously ill child, parent or spouse. difficulties: (a) inconsistent rule enforcement, (b) noncompliance with discipline policies, (c) insensitivity to students, e.g., exhibiting little patience for students' concerns and the 'teach the best, forget the rest' philosophy, (d) lack of disciplinary data, i.e., none or very little Monitoring how policies are applied throughout the organization in disciplining employees can help HR get a better handle on which policies to keep and which to ditch. Policies have to be changed to reflect changes in the law and changes in society.. confidential relationship is or should be formed by use of the site. Statements like these can create a contract for continued employment, rather than protect your companys right to terminate at will. There are few things that seem to get well-intentioned employers into more trouble than when they apply workplace policies differently to similarly situated employees. Used right, your companys discipline system will help managers recognize problems early, work with employees to turn performance around, and ensure that employees know what the company expects. The last updated date refers to the last time this article was reviewed by FindLaw or one of ourcontributing authors. Another source of inconsistencies stemming from outdated policies is a lack of organization, particularly when it comes to weeding out the old versions. 20% Discount On All Memberships, Enter Your Email Failure to be thorough on performance evaluations. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) took Reynolds cause all the way to the 8th U.S. If a company wants to avoid lawsuits, discrimination, and a culture of inequity, it should avoid inconsistent enforcement of company policies at all costs. The attorney In the recent decision in Hexcel Corp. v. Lab Commission, the Utah Court of Appeals affirmed a decision by the Utah Labor Commission that Hexcel was liable for discrimination and/or retaliation when it fired an employee because of his disability and related request for accommodation. A reader's particular legal position is dependent upon the facts of the specific situation. Contact us. Its challenging to enforce something you dont understand, but when careers are on the line, you want to make sure that people fully grasp what they are dealing with. SUBSCRIBE HERE! One of those rights is equal pay for equal work, and according to The Equal Pay Act (EPA), pay includes more than just a salary. When you develop new rules, put employees on notice.. A policy that made sense to add at one point may lurk around long after it has stopped serving a business purpose. Generally speaking, a jury thinks, Why should the company owner be treated better than Joe on the production line? If a rule says all employees, it should mean all.. Built In found that diverse companies see 1.4 times more revenue, 2.3 times more cash flow per employee, and are 70% more likely to capture new markets. A few months after the company denied Mr. Pickards request for accommodation, he was caught sleeping in a company truck during a brief break and was fired. For help drafting or reviewing your company's leave policy and other documents, and for advice on whether you . Wage and hour lawsuits are on the rise. That's textbook slave-morality. Not only does inconsistent enforcement of company policies around pay damage morale, it also violates the law. Give managers just enough information so they know when to contact the HR team, which has a detailed knowledge of leave laws. How upper management deals with workplace harassment sets the tone for the company culture, and inconsistent enforcement of company policies is a slippery slope to a toxic environment. ComplianceBridge Corporation Take the case of John Reynolds, a black employee of plumbing manufacturer Kohler in its Searcy, Ark., plant who was fired for violating company attendance rules. Policies and procedures are an essential part of any organization. Before disciplining employees, especially termination, employers should consider whether the conduct is protected by law, either federal or state; whether the conduct violated an employer policy; does the company have a legitimate business . When Kohler confronted Reynolds about these infractions, he said that he was being singled out because he was black. Conversely, when managers want to fire someone, but their evaluations have been glowing, its hard to explain to a jury. Documentation shows fairness, and shows jurors and judges that the managers response wasnt a knee-jerk reaction, Zandy said. The court later granted Kohler a motion for judgment as a matter of law and overturned the jury's verdict on retaliation. Its easy to see why a manager wouldnt enforce an antiquated, useless policy. Worse, if they are enforced unevenly among employees, they can become tools of destruction. Obtain copies of department-specific or job-specific policies, such as standard operating procedures, job descriptions or memoranda containing updates. When a workplace rule that should apply to everyone seems to be applied only selectively, employees feel aggrieved. Learn more about FindLaws newsletters, including our terms of use and privacy policy. Giving preferential treatment to certain employees, even if its accidental, is discriminatory against others, and firing one employee for actions another received a slap on the wrist for could qualify as unlawful termination. While managers might consider rules and procedures surrounding pay to be a pain in the neck, they need to know what could happen if the company faces a lawsuit or a U.S. Department of Labor audit. As a result, employees and managers were, at times, unclear about the state of the companys policies. This evidence will go a long way in defeating a discrimination claim. These cookies will be stored in your browser only with your consent. Having well-written employment policies is a good thing, but it is only half the battle. OP can't do anything about the inflexibly policy, so they take issue with the unfair enforcement. Managing the employees in your workplace effectively necessitates that even the smallest of businesses set up work rules. However, they did not question the white employee about modifying his shift; this employee also happened to be the son of the plant manager. According to the EEOC, the following company policies discourage retaliatory conduct: . Prior to the meeting, photocopy proof of the inconsistency, as well as your notes, and provide your supervisor with a copy. With the rise of the #MeToo movement and growing awareness around discrimination, employers who fail to enforce proper workplace conduct are at more risk than ever before. In fact, the EEOC offered evidence that four other Kohler employees violated similar policies and either were not disciplined or were disciplined with less severity. We use cookies on our website to give you the most relevant experience by remembering your preferences and repeat visits. Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings are the gold standard in attorney ratings, and have been for more than a century. Inconsistent enforcement of company policies is practically an invitation for claims of discrimination under state and federal anti-bias laws. Other workers were told that they could nap anywhere, as long as they were on a break. AV Preeminent: The highest peer rating standard. The company didnt rebut his evidence. By documenting the action and the reward or punishment that accompanied it, managers can make sure to treat similar actions similarly and catch inconsistencies before they become too problematic. In addition, the exact parameters of the no-sleeping rule were not clearly established. Dont permit them to play favorites. if(currentUrl.indexOf("/about-shrm/pages/shrm-china.aspx") > -1) { Your company will lose the court case every time. If the company varies how they handle compensation unfairly, they could be at risk. In the past few years, companies have had to develop policies for cell phones, use of cell phones in company cars, and employee weblogs, Johnson says. However, in a pending lawsuit, Miller v. Canadian National Railway Co., the issue is being raised in a different context: whether alleged inconsistent enforcement was racially motivated . If your boss only enforces a rule when you break it, that could be a sign of discrimination or workplace retaliation. Its the manager Im always scared of. How to Dispute a Warning Letter in an Employee File, How to Get a Job Through a Company You Got Fired From.

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