Yet Another Reason Why Employee Handbooks Matter

Although this blog is not intended to address the many statutory protections that govern the workplace (there are many other blogs that do that quite well), a recent decision from the Eleventh Circuit reiterates the importance of following employee handbooks during the disciplinary process.

In Chavez v. Credit Nation Auto Sales, No 14-14596, 2016 WL 158820 (11th Cir. Jan. 14, 2016), a transgender employee – whose employment had been nominally terminated for sleeping on the job – asserted Title VII claims against her employer.

The Court of Appeals partially reversed summary judgment to the Employer as to a transgender employee’s Title VII claims. The panel reversed the District Court led in favor of a transgender employee who was nominally terminated for sleeping on the job. Although there were other reasons for its ruling, the Eleventh Cirtcuit noted that the Employer did not follow its own progressive four step employee discipline process. As the employer’s handbook noted, “[t]he major purpose of any disciplinary action is to correct the problem, prevent recurrence, and prepare the employee for satisfactory service in the future.” And sleeping on the job was not among the listed exceptions to this policy.

This decision has no precedential value because the panel’s ruling was unsigned and unpublished.

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