Some companies have employee handbooks with pages of rules that they never explain and never enforce. Other companies have verbal rules that they explain during training and expect employees to follow. A hybrid model that combines implied rules and written rules is common in many workplaces.
Having rules for employees allows an employer to evaluate their performance and correct issues that might affect the company’s operations or the safety of other workers. Unfortunately, some companies will use pedantic rule enforcement as a way to penalize specific workers or discriminate against specific groups.
If your boss only enforces a rule when you break it, that could be a sign of discrimination or workplace retaliation.
Some rules affect certain workers more than others
Companies should have rules that apply evenly to all workers and should strive to consistently enforce those rules. Some companies will adopt a rule that only impacts the rights or daily functions of specific employees.
If the rule has more of an impact on people of one religion, race, sex or medical condition, then the rule itself might be discriminatory. If the business only enforces the rule against people who belong to one group, that is further indication that the rule is discriminatory.
Some companies use the rules to single out particular workers
If you have complained about inappropriate jokes in the workplace or requested leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, your employers should respect your assertion of your basic employment rights. However, some businesses will retaliate against workers, often by trying to demote or fire them. Writing someone up repeatedly for tiny infractions is a way for a company to seemingly justify what is actually a retaliatory firing.
When you notice a trend of your boss specifically targeting you for enforcement, especially if you have recently made a report to management or human resources, your job may be at risk. Keeping records of the situation from your own perspective and including details about when things happen and who said what could help you prove discrimination if you do end up losing your job later.
Documenting what you perceived as uneven rule enforcement could help you bring an employment law claim against the company that used this tactic as a means to punish or discriminate against you.