When we talk with employers, we tell them again and again that one of the best defenses to discrimination claims is to treat similarly situated employees the same. But what does that mean? When are employees similarly situated? A recent discrimination case provides a good illustration of the concept.
In Hodczak v. Latrobe Specialty Steel Co., four employees in their late 50s and early 60s sued their employer for age discrimination after their employment was terminated. According to the employer, it terminated the employees’ employment because they regularly exchanged emails containing sexually explicit photographs – i.e., porn – in violation of the company’s Electronic Communications Policy. The employer discovered the porn exchange while it was investigating a sexual harassment complaint against one of the terminated employees.