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Discipline / Investigations

Independent inquiry saves the day on supervisor harassment

09/01/2007

Employers can fairly easily limit their liability in sexual harassment cases. Rigorously enforcing a solid harassment policy does the trick. But supervisor harassment is another matter. When a supervisor allegedly harasses a subordinate, the employer is liable unless it can show that some “tangible employment action” by the supervisor didn’t adversely affect
the victim …

Keep written records showing discipline rationale

09/01/2007

The decks are stacked against employees who claim retaliation when there is no direct evidence of discrimination—if employers keep complete written records of their disciplinary actions. Those cases often hinge on allegations the employer trumped up disciplinary charges to cover up retaliation. That can be difficult for an employee to prove if there is a solid paper trail documenting the employee’s infractions and the resulting discipline …

Detailed investigations help distinguish punishments

09/01/2007

If you have a disciplinary policy that dictates punishment for different infractions, make sure you thoroughly investigate each incident. That way, you’ll be better prepared to show why one employee received a lesser punishment than another. That rationale is crucial when it comes to a discrimination lawsuit. You must be prepared to show how thorough your investigation was and why you did what you did …

‘Keep it confidential’ may let employers off liability hook

09/01/2007

You have a robust sexual harassment  policy, and everyone from the lowest level employee to the company president knows how it works. But what happens if an employee tells a supervisor about possible harassment and then asks him or her not to take it up with HR? …

Good news: Discussion of discipline that doesn’t name names is not defamation

09/01/2007

Supervisors can discuss discipline with co-workers if the situation warrants and not fear a defamation lawsuit. As long as the discussion is necessary for a legitimate business reason, such as preventing workplace violence or squelching rampant and erroneous rumors, the employer won’t be liable. Otherwise, mum’s the word …

Porn at work: Don’t get into debate over what is ‘Too much’

09/01/2007

When an employee says no to the sexual images posted in co-workers’ workstations and to their sexually laced comments, your company had better listen … and act. It shouldn’t debate over “how much” porn is acceptable. As a recent lawsuit shows, even if an employee initially tolerates a sexually charged workplace, she can drop the lawsuit hammer at any time …

Investigation should consider all sides of the story

08/01/2007

Not every allegation of sexual harassment is well-founded, and some employees may be overly sensitive. That’s why your investigation should consider all sides, including the alleged victim’s reaction and treatment of the alleged harasser. As the following case shows, a thorough investigation may reveal that the problem is with the alleged victim’s perception and his or her response to the alleged harassment …

Discipline for absences even if employee has disability

08/01/2007

Employees who take intermittent leave cause the greatest disruption in the workplace, according to comments received by the U.S. Labor Department on proposed revisions to the FMLA. That includes employees with disabilities who seem to need an inordinate—and unpredictable—number of absences. If you suspect abuse, don’t jump the gun …

No witness needed for disciplinary meeting

08/01/2007

Q. I run a large restaurant and employ only nonunion workers. Recently, I called one of the waiters into my office to issue him a warning for arriving late for his shifts. He told me he had a right to have one of the cooks there witness our exchange. Is he right? …

Keeping the work environment safe

08/01/2007

Q. What proactive strategies can employers implement to promote a safe workplace? …