Getting fired for bringing a gun to work probably isn’t discrimination

But, hey, what do you have to lose by filing the lawsuit anyway, right? I mean, it can’t end up worse than the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football.

(Oh yeah, I went there).

More after the jump…

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So, I was reading this opinion from a New Hampshire federal court about an employee who claimed that his firing was discrimination.

Except, the thing is, a customer noticed that the employee was carrying a gun at work — his work being an auto parts store. So, the company investigates. The employee admits to HR that he had a gun at work. The company has a policy against carrying firearms at work. (Sorry, Texas, we in the northeast are just a little soft, I guess). So, the employee gets fired.

Then he sues for national-origin discrimination because, why not, right?

Except, hold up a second, the employee argued that the company had failed to take similar action against two other employees who brought weapons to work.

Not a bad argument, given the circumstances. But, the employee could not establish that these two comparator individuals were similarly situated to him, thus enabling a reasonable person to conclude that his firing took place under circumstances that would give rise to an inference of discrimination.

Here’s what the court had to say about that:

Specifically, he has not shown that those violations of company policy were the subject of customer complaints or were known to Thompson or any other AutoZoners District Manager….If Thompson knew about the violations of company policy by other employees that Dipigney identifies, and did not discharge the employees involved, that might well be enough to establish the fourth element of Dipigney’s prima facie case. But, it is Dipigney’s burden to establish the requisite similarity between himself and his purported comparators, and he has not done so.

Even the most obviously policies can create problems for employers if they are not followed uniformly. Whether its a weapons policy, call-out, performance, you name it. If you have the policy, follow it, and apply it evenly to avoid the appearance of bias.

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As a reminder, we are hosting an event next month entitled, “Social Media @Work, The #BalancingAct between Employer and Employee.” This free event will take place November 12, 2014 from 8:45-10:00 AM at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. (We’ll even feed you breakfast at 8:00). I am so excited about this event because you’ll get direct access to three of the most influential workplace decision-makers in our government on a super-hot workplace issue. And, for what it’s worth, I’ll be on the panel too 😉

More details here.

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