Gender discrimination claim dismissed, based on harsh policy allowing discharge for first violation
Sharon Sybrandt was hired by Home Depot in 1991 and eventually promoted to Assistant Manager, before being fired in 2002. She had violated a Home Depot policy which prohibited employees from using their own security code to effect certain personal transactions: she had stood over another employee's shoulder while the employee processed a return under Sybrandt's code. The Home Depot investigator recommended she be terminated for the breach, which the personnel policy informed employees could result in dismissal, and she was fired. She sued claiming the alleged policy violation was a subterfuge for gender discrimination.
The Sixth Circuit upheld the firing, even though it acknowledged that there was no attempt to mis-use the employee's position in conducting this personal transaction. It cited Home Depot's claim that the policy also discouraged even the appearance of mis-use of personal codes, and held that Home Depot's policy was not so harsh or arbitrary [i.e., so "unfair and extreme"] that it could not reasonably be considered the actual basis for the termination.