Monday, March 03, 2008

Opposite of discrimination

An acquaintance of mine was telling me a story about his company and discrimination. I'm not sure if there will be any comments but I wanted to tell the class because I thought it was quite unique

He was working for a large consulting firm that would often hire minorities and seemed to be a company that was against discrimination. He told me that they had hired a black man to work on his team and upon working with the new guy, he said "it wasn't hard to tell that he was homosexual."

After a few months of good work from the black homosexual, the company was given word from a client that one of the new guys reports had been plagerized. He had copied part of a competing firms report and given it to the client as his own.

This put the company in a sticky situation because of the employee's race and sexuality. Instead of firing the employee for plagerizing a report that was given to a client, they did nothing. They told the employee that it is illegal to plagerize and let him continue his responsibilities, I'm sure that they didn't take further action against him because of a potential lawsuit that could have stemmed from the employee being fired or repremanded.

Now is it not discrimination that this employee was given special consideration because of his race and sexual orientation? Has the law gone too far when an employee that has very obiviously done wrong and deserves to be fired or at the least be repremanded receives no such actions because of his race and sexuality?


Blogger Sflohr said...

I definitely agree with where you are coming from on this post. I've heard and overseen numerous situations where an employee has been given a lesser punishment because of his membership of a certain protected class.

My only question for the case above would be what is the company's policy against plagiarizing? Do they have a zero tolerance policy? And if they do, have there been instances when a member of a non protected class has been fired when he was caught plagiarizing for the first time?

I think it is the duty of the company to enforce their guidelines in a uniform matter that gives no employee, no matter what their membership of a protected class might be, any kind of advantage over any other employee. If their reason for firing is valid, and the company can show documentation justifying the decisions they made, then they should have nothing to worry about when defending those actions.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Katie Krengel said...

I agree with the above comment. Clearly the company is fearing something which they should have no reason to fear. No court would find their firing of a plagiarizing employee to be discrimination, especially if other employees have been fired in the past for the same reasoning.

Here is something else to consider: Could an employee that has been fired in the past for plagiarizing sue the company for wrongful firing or discrimination since this minority employee wasn't fired for the same action? It is a stretch, I know, but I have heard of crazier things.

1:27 PM  
Blogger wtravis said...

Katie, I like your question. I think that somebody getting fired for plagerizing while someone else wasn't fired because of discrimination is basis for a lawsuit. However, because this fired individual might not fall into a protected class they might have trouble arguing discrimination. I don't really know I would definitely like to know what others think or actually know.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Lilly said...

You guys make a lot of really interesting and valid points. I, too, was thinking about the fact that this company had clear documentation of the plagiarism and therefore, it would seem that the black homosexual would have a difficult time proving discrimination. I wonder if the company has had trouble in the past with minority lawsuits. Perhaps they have been in trouble and have a history that, if reopened by another minority case, could seriously deface the company's image.

I can tell you that if I had been in the situation of an employee who'd been fired for plagiarism and I found out about this individual who, because of his race and sexuality, had not...well, I'd be pretty upset. In fact, I think that could even be grounds for its own lawsuit, like Katie mentioned.

Either way, this is a very interesting issue.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Professor Prenkert said...

Several good points here: First, one reason the company might hesitate to take action is if it hasn't consistently taken action in similar situations in the past. Inconsistency in punishments for similarly situated comparators is one of the most common types of evidence used to prove discrimination. That inconsistency can work both ways: Now this company must be careful in the future if it is confronted with a similar transgression by someone not of this individual's protected class. Nonblacks and females could use this individual as a comparator. (Incidentally, wtravis, Title VII protects employees of all races from discrimination on the basis of their race. So, every employee is a member of a protected class in a manner of speaking.)

Employers often miscalculate the likelihood of a successful employment discrimination or wrongful termination claim. (And so do, sometimes, athletic departments of large public universities, but that's another matter altogether!)

2:49 PM  

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