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Eighth Circuit says no comparable disciplinary histories means no comparators

By JULIE SIMS

It’s hard to argue with consistent, documented disciplinary procedures.

The Eighth Circuit reminded employers of this when it recently sided with an employer on an ADA and ADEA claim. In Lindeman v. Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City, the employee held a good employment record for the majority of his eight years at St. Luke’s Hospital. In his last few months of employment, however, he quickly progressed through the four stages of the employer’s disciplinary policy. After his third infraction, he violated patient confidentiality and was terminated.

The employee sued for disability and age discrimination, pointing to two other employees who also revealed the name of the same patient but were not terminated. The employer won largely because the other employees did not have the same number of disciplinary infractions as the employee, and therefore were not similarly situated comparators.

By now you have heard that the Missouri Human Rights Act was amended last year, meaning new decisions including the one in this will be very persuasive in both Missouri state courts and federal courts. This case reiterates that good disciplinary policy and procedures along with thorough documentation can be a complete defense to liability.

Consistency with discipline goes a long way in shielding a company from liability and gives the court a concrete measurement for alleged comparators.