- A white accounting assistant should not have her race claim revived because she failed to show that her discipline for mishandling money was pretext for discrimination, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held (Mazur v. Southwestern Veterans Center; Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, No. 19-3293 (3rd Cir., March 5, 2020)).
- The employee was suspended without pay after $500 went missing. Police concluded they had sufficient evidence to arrest or prosecute her, according to court documents; ultimately, the employer offered her "a final warning and a time-served suspension without back pay." A union rep agreed to the settlement but she refused and sued, alleging she was treated more harshly than a non-white employee involved in the incident.
- A district court granted summary judgment for the employer and on appeal, the 3rd Circuit upheld that ruling. The other employee had a smaller role in the incident, the court said, so was not a proper comparator.
Employers are free to make personnel decisions as long they have a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason to back up the move; however, uneven discipline can undermine an employer's determination.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has explained that if two employees commit a similar offense, the employees can’t be disciplined differently on the basis of a protected characteristic such as race or age. Policies should be applied consistently and employees who violate employer rules should receive proportionate discipline. HR can help with making sure that consistency is a hallmark of disciplinary actions.
Experts have said that supervisors are a major cause of bias claims. Therefore, they recommend managers receive periodic compliance training on federal, state and local laws and tips for preventing bias, harassment, discrimination and retaliation claims.