Manager was too flexible — company lands in court

Two employees are caught breaking the same rule. One has had behavior problems in the past, the other hasn’t. Can their manager legally fire one and not the other?
In many situations, yes, as long as the documentation is in order. But here’s a case where a manager’s flexibility went too far — and got the company in big trouble:
A male bus driver was fired after dropping a student off at an unauthorized stop, in violation of the school district’s policy.
The problem: A few other drivers, all female, had broken the same rule but were never disciplined.
So the male driver sued, claiming he was fired because of his gender.
His manager argued the decision was partially based on the man’s previous performance — during his tenure, he’d been involved in one accident, and the school district had gotten several complaints about him from students’ parents.
His unauthorized stop was just the final straw.
What did the court think?
The judge sided with the employee. He presented a lot of evidence of how frequently the policy was broken. One female driver was caught making unauthorized stops on a regular basis for two years, without any disciplinary action.
The man did have problems in the past, but the school district couldn’t prove the rule had ever been taken seriously by management when female employees were involved.
The lesson for managers: You don’t have to treat every employee exactly the same, even when they violate the same policy. In some cases, such as when there’ve been previous behavior problems, the company might decide to fire an employee while only warning the other.
But firing someone while taking absolutely no action against anyone else is likely to lead to a discrimination lawsuit.
Cite: Dinkins v. Suffolk Transportation Services.

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