In a recent case involving one of the Firm’s Ohio-based clients, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission dismissed a claim for religious and race discrimination brought by an African-American employee who walked out of the facility during the day without permission. The company terminated the employee the next day for insubordination and abandoning his job. When finding insufficient evidence to support the claim, the Commission noted that the employee’s file contained seven previous warnings for absenteeism and tardiness. In addition, the company had the disciplinary record of a Caucasian employee that the claimant alleged was treated differently. Although the Caucasian employee received a warning letter and was not terminated, the Commission ruled that the Caucasian employee’s misconduct was not as serious as the claimant’s misconduct. Therefore, the claimant was unable to prove that the company discriminated against him when it terminated his employment. The existence of an employee handbook with rules against insubordination and abandonment of the job was helpful but not determinative.
According to Alan M. Kaplan, this case illustrates the importance of systems, preparation and documentation. The company implemented an established procedure throughout the employee’s employment. This procedure included an employee handbook and disciplinary records maintained in employees’ personnel files. When the misconduct occurred, the supervisor reported the situation to human resources, which investigated the misconduct, took action and documented the action. When the former employee filed his charge of discrimination, the company was ready with the documentation for the drafting of the position statement and responses to questions raised by the Commission’s investigator. And, when the investigator interviewed the supervisors and human resource professionals, they were able to testify consistently and meaningfully, showing