The Consistency Conundrum


“If we do it for one employee, we have to do it for all!”

This is not necessarily true!

Consistency is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong. Consistency is the right thing to do. Consistency supports equity and impartiality. Consistency reduces administrative mistakes. Consistency reduces administrative work in general. I’m all for consistency.

However, consistency without exceptions can get in the way. Consistency in the workplace is more about doing the same thing for similarly situated employees, than for all employees.

Extreme Example:

Sue and Furman both worked for RueD, Inc. for 10 years.  Sue, an A+ performer, requests an extra week of leave after she exhausts her 12 weeks of FMLA to care for her dying dad.  Furman, a C- performer, requests an extra week to care for a dying parent, too. As cold as it may seem, Furman’s employer can deny his request while giving Sue hers.

Why? Because of their performance! I realize many were taught otherwise, because consistency is a good thing, but hear me out? Performance is an objective criterion that can be used to substantiate the difference in provision.

Whether RueD, Inc. should treat Sue and Furman differently is a different matter, but they can.

Employers can do different things for different employees. They must draw clear standards for differentiating between employees and should be able to explain why…objectively. Objective criteria will help. Things like performance, department, division, plant, region, state, seniority, executive status, exemption status, and any other objective criteria. 

They just need to be able to justify why one is permitted and the other is denied. Race, color, religion, sex, national origin, genetic information, disability, age over 40, and other protected classes cannot be nor appear to be the criteria used for differentiation in the provision of a benefit…or a disciplinary action….or whatever.

Doing the same thing is not as important as doing the same thing for similarly situated employees.



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