Employers create internal policies to manage employee behavior and promote productivity. Enforcement of these policies, however, might appear inconsistent, especially to workers in New Jersey who suspect that their gender, race, sexual orientation, age or ethnicity prompted managers to single them out for punishment or termination. A court case involving the dismissal of an openly gay man has established the precedent that uneven enforcement of company rules does amount to discrimination.
The circumstances that led to the case involved a heterosexual married woman and a gay man. The employer hired them at the same time, but only fired the gay man for violating the prohibition on personal use of the internet at work. The woman had also used a company computer to send personal emails, but she did not lose her job. The court concluded that the man had been a victim of workplace discrimination.
Although employers generally have the legal right to fire workers with or without a valid reason, the action cannot appear motivated by prejudice against protected classes. Federal law bars employers from taking actions based on someone’s race, national origin, sex, age or religion.
Despite legal protections, a person might encounter difficulty proving workplace discrimination. Legal advice could help in this situation. An attorney could investigate company policies and how the employer applied the rules to the client and other employees. Differences in policy enforcement could provide sufficient evidence. An attorney might communicate the legal concern directly to the employer or file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These actions might result in a favorable outcome.