What's the point of having a written handbook policy if
you aren't going to follow it? Better yet, what are the consequences of not
following that handbook policy?
(Hint: they're bad).
This recent federal-court age-discrimination decision
underscores the importance of companies following their own established rules
and protocols. The facts are not unlike many other discrimination cases. Put
simply, the plaintiff here claimed that her employer demoted her because of her
age. The employer responded by arguing that it had a legitimate business reason
to reassign the plaintiff. And the plaintiff called BS on the "legitimate
business reason," suggesting that it was a pretext for age discrimination.
That is, age was the motivating factor behind her demotion.
The court here found a reasonable juror could find that
that the company's failure to abide by its own misconduct procedures
Furthermore, Plaintiff points out that
Defendant's documentation regarding her demotion is potentially suspect. All of
the negative performance memoranda regarding Plaintiff was created on or after
May 13, 2010, a mere eight days prior to the adverse employment action. The
lack of documentation at the time of the supposed incidents of misconduct
indicates, at the very least, that Defendant failed to follow its own
misconduct procedures. While the timing of such documentation does not lead
to the automatic conclusion that Plaintiff's demotion was because of her age,
it does support an inference' that Defendant might be covering up a
discriminatory purpose. (internal citations and quotations
omitted; my emphasis added).
This case shows that not following the written policy you
have may be worse than having no policy at all.
This article was originally published on Eric B. Meyer's blog, The Employer
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