Can an employer discipline for past behaviors?

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Can an employer discipline for past behaviors?

My boss at my previous job caught me arriving late for work, last October. At which point she told me that I need to let her know when I’m arriving late, to which I agreed. After that, I had not been late, but 2 weeks later, she showed me records going back 6 months, reflecting that I had been late numerous times. I had made up most of the time through lunches and staying later. I was told that I had falsified my time sheets and that my punishment could range from suspension to removal. Others received less for similar/identical offenses. I had no previous progressive disciplines.

Asked on April 22, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The critical issue is whether or not your have an employment agreement, or are subject to a union or collective-bargaining agreement, which sets out a procedure and/or grounds for discipline. If the answer is "yes," you may only be discriplined in accordance with that agreement. If the answer is "no," however, your employer may discipline you at any time, for any reason, including past behaviors, and may freely determine the extent or type of discipline, up to and including termination. Also, there is no law requiring employers to discipline all employees equally or the same, so long as the disparity is not due to a protected characteristic (i.e. is not discrimination against), such as race, religion, age over 40, disability, or sex.


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