Employer Justification of Inconsistent Treatment of Employees
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), interprets and enforces Title VIIâ€™s prohibition of sex discrimination as forbidding any employment discrimination by employers against employees based upon race, color, gender, religion, sex, age, genetic information, or national origin.
In general, an employer is obligated under both Federal and State law to treat all employees equally, holding them accountable for their work, rewarding them when appropriate, and imposing disciplinary measures when necessary. Specifically, under Title VII and corresponding State law, and employer is prohibited from making employment decisions on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, age, disability or genetic information (including family medical history).
WHEN AN EMPLOYER IS REQUIRED TO DEVIATE FROM POLICIES
In some instances, however, an employer may find themselves required to treat employees differently or deviate from their past behavior or employment policies. To assist in this situation, the EEOC has provided guidance to employers as to certain situations in which it may be allowable for an employer to deviate from their past treatment of employees. Such instances, as outlined by the EEOC, are as follows:
- Deciding to hold an employee to stricter performance or conduct standards than imposed on other employees because the employee has a high-profile role that merits the stricter standards;
- Deciding to suspend one employee for failing to complete an order on time and issue warnings to other employees who failed to complete orders on time because the first employee has repeatedly missed deadlines and the other employees have never missed a deadline before;
- Deciding to postpone a promotion because an employerâ€™s current financial situation does not allow the granting of a promotion in the originally anticipated time frame.
A CAVEAT TO EMPLOYERS
It is important to note that the EEOC provides a caveat in their explanation that: â€œin these situations, to prevent misunderstandings, it may be helpful to explain to the employee why you are treating [them] differently. If there are no circumstances that justify treating the employee differently, you may want to determine whether it is possible to accomplish your objective(s) in a manner more consistent with your past behavior or your employee policies.â€
While these three circumstances certainly are not the only situations which may arise in which an employer may have to treat employees differently, the hope is that an employer can review these situations and extrapolate their reasoning to possibly fit their needs and refrain from discriminatory decisions.
If you are an employer and are faced with a situation in which you must treat one employee differently than other, contact the experienced employment law attorneys today at 203-221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com. We have the experience and knowledge you need at this critical juncture. We serve clients in both New York and Connecticut including New Canaan, Bridgeport, White Plains, and Darien.
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