Gender Discrimination in Progressive Discipline

by on January 21, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Unequal punishment in a sexual harassment case left employer looking biased

Let the punishment fit the crime, a wise person said.

And if two people commit the same workplace infraction, it’s a good idea to come up with a punishment that fits both offenders equally.

If you don’t, you could end up looking at a gender discrimination lawsuit, no matter what your real motives were.

That’s what happened to an employer in Indiana. A male employee and a female boss (not his direct supervisor, but above him in the hierarchy) had a fling that ended badly. The usual bad blood was spilled, and after a few weeks both were called on the carpet and disciplined for sexual harassment.

One problem, though: The employee was demoted by two steps, while, the manager got a five-day suspension.

When the employee sued for gender discrimination, the court said he had a point. The employer’s investigative report said the relationship had been consensual, and both should be disciplined. So why was the man punished more severely? The employer had no ready answer.

Cite: Monroe v. Indiana DOT, No. 1:05-cv-1163, S.D. Ind., 1/19/07.

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