When Workplace Disciplinary Practices Become Discriminatory

When Workplace Disciplinary Practices Become Discriminatory

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Sometimes adults need to be disciplined for immoral or unethical behavior in the workplace. Or maybe they just have poor work habits and spend too much time on personal phone calls or on lunch breaks. 

Sometimes employers are scared to take action, though, because they are afraid of the possible legal ramifications. It is perfectly legal to discipline or fire an employee who is not following the rules or doing their duties. However, there are proper ways to go about it so that there is no discrimination involved. 

For example, no employee should be treated differently based on their race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or other protected class. When it comes to discipline, everyone must be treated the same. This means certain steps cannot be overlooked for different people. 

Discipline must be even-handed. There cannot be a difference in how a policy is applied from one person to another. An employer cannot engage in discrimination. Otherwise, they can be sued by the employer.

How to Discipline an Employee Without Discrimination

When you discipline an employee, it must be in accordance with the company’s policy and employee handbook. You cannot make exceptions for one employee except in extreme circumstances. 

Managers who make decisions about terminations must understand their legal responsibilities. To prevent legal issues involving discrimination, keep the following in mind:

  • Make sure that any decisions about employee discipline are not based on a protected class, such as race, color, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or religion.
  • The decision to discipline the employee must be consistent with company policy,
  • Disciplinary decisions should not be based on whistleblower activities, such as an employee’s decision to report discrimination or participate in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit
  • Be sure to document the reason for the discipline or termination in case the employee files a complaint.
  • Make sure the employee is aware of the reason for the discipline or termination so there is no misunderstanding or confusion. 
  • Keep all relevant documentation and records as required by law (such as if an EEOC charge is filed).

Supervisors also need to be aware of their own personal biases. They cannot carry out harsher discipline on someone just because they do not like them. They cannot single out the sole woman in an office of 20 men. Everyone needs to be treated the same, regardless of how a supervisor feels about someone personally. Discipline needs to be tied directly to a person’s work performance. 

Contact a Chicago Employment Lawyer

While employers are allowed to discipline or terminate employees, it must be done in a legal way. When age, race, gender, religion, or another protected class is involved, the discipline can become discriminatory, resulting in legal issues.

If you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace, seek legal help from The Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline in Chicago. We can assess your case and help you understand your legal options. To schedule a free consultation, fill out the online form or call (312) 558-1454.