We Are Open (With Safety Precautions) & Ready To Help:  Click Here To Watched Our Covid-19 Webinar — What Employers Need to Know

Good Explanation of How Employers Do or Do Not Discriminate Among Similarly Situated Employees

Written on .

The most common type of discrimination case is based on what the law calls "disparate treatment," which is often defined as treating employees of different races and sexes differently who are similarly situated in all material respects.  As a result, disparate treatment cases often turn on the issue of whether persons of different races or sexes are actually similarly situated.  A recent ruling for one employer in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals does a good job of describing what these terms mean.  Stimson v. Stryker Sales Corp., No. 19-14997 (Nov. 30, 2020).  The case involves two employees disciplined in a different manner for the same "no lie, no cheat, no steal policy."  

While the court found that the two employees being compared, one younger than 40 years old and one older, were similarly situated in some respects because they were being disciplined under the same policy, the court nevertheless found that their misconduct differed in certain material respects.  First, the basis of the misconduct that began the investigations differed - one was accused of sexually harassing a nurse while the other was accused of physically bullying a co-worker and joking about his sexuality.  Additionally, the older employee who was discharged had evidence leading HR to conclude that he had been dishonest during its investigation, while there was no such evidence as to the younger employee.  Third, the evidence supported the conclusion that the employer believed that one employee had not been intentionally dishonest, while the other had been intentionally dishonest.  Next, the court recognized that the two employees were supervised by two different individuals, and that while HR investigated both cases, it was the different supervisors that maintained the responsibility of making the final decision to terminate each employee.  Lastly, the two individuals did not share a substantially similar employment disciplinary history.  One had several years of seniority, while one was newer to the company.  They had different job titles and duties.  One employee had never been reported for misconduct previously, while the other was reported for harassment several years earlier.  Thus, the court concluded that the two employees were not similarly situated in all material respects, and the older one could have been properly terminated while the other received lesser discipline. 

Editor's Note - Whether the employer treats people equally comes up in almost every disparate treatment case.  When a plaintiff contends that persons of different races, sexes or ages have been treated differently, the above case looks at some of the criteria a court can use in determining whether the compared employees are truly "similarly situated in all material respects."

This is part of our July 2021 Newsletter.

Click here to download the newsletter PDF

Get Email Updates

Receive newsletters and alerts directly in your email inbox. Sign up below.

Recent Content

medical healthcare, indoors

Supreme Court Again Upholds Affordable Care Act

California v. Texas, the Supreme Court has again upheld the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), often known as ObamaCare. A fede...
sticky notes, wall, indoors

No-match Social Security Letters Discontinued

In the past, the Social Security Administration (SSA) during periods of time has issued so-called "no-match letters" to employers with "a...

Supreme Court Allows Catholic Group to Exclude Foster-care Rights

The public and the courts continue to debate whether there should be religious exemptions to LGBT anti-discrimination laws. In other word...
restroom neon light

EEOC Addresses Controversial LGBT Restroom Policies

A year ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County that Title VII outlawed workplace bias based on sexual orientation a...
buttons on a table, indoor

Labor Board to Reconsider Employer Restrictions on Wearing Buttons and Other Insignia in the Workplace

Many employers do not like the idea of employees wearing pro-union shirts or buttons on the job. In the past, however, and particularly d...
monopoly houses on a wooden table indoors

Supreme Court Rejects Union Access to Employer's Property in California

A strong ruling for employers' private property rights was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in June in Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, No....

Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider & Stine

3400 Peachtree Road, Ste 400 / Lenox Towers / Atlanta, GA 30326 /404.365.0900

Where Experience Counts

Thank you for visiting the firm's website. Please note that this website is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute an offer of representation or create an attorney-client relationship with the firm. The firm welcomes receipt of electronic mail but the act of sending electronic mail alone does not create an attorney-client relationship. You may reproduce materials available at this site for your own personal use and for non-commercial distribution. All copies must include the firm's copyright notice.

© 2020 Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider & Stine P.C. | Site By JSM