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Discipline / Investigations

Indefinite suspension is retaliation, even without discharge

06/01/2007

When a company faces sexual harassment or other discrimination complaints, the investigation has to start as soon as possible. Sometimes that means suspending participants while you sort things out. A prompt conclusion to a thorough investigation is the key to avoiding retaliation charges when you tell everyone to take a “time out”

Another reason to enforce violence policy: To avoid workers’ compensation liability

06/01/2007

Policies forbidding threats, fighting and other kinds of violence promote a harmonious and safe workplace, but there’s another good reason to ensure employees aren’t doing each other bodily harm. If you don’t take concrete steps to stem horseplay or outright aggression, you just might pay the price in higher workers’ compensation premiums

After ‘Joke,’ SeaWorld Fires Employee for Shooting Threat

06/01/2007

When a SeaWorld employee told co-workers he idolized the Virginia Tech shooter and that he wanted to “do what happened at Virginia Tech here at SeaWorld,” SeaWorld promptly fired him and called the police …

Existing attendance policy ignored? Start enforcing rules now

06/01/2007

If your managers have been less than consistent about enforcing attendance policies, suddenly sticking to the rules could prompt lawsuits. But you can start enforcing the rules now without triggering trouble if you do it the right way

Watch wiretap law when listening in on disciplinary meetings

06/01/2007

Have you ever wished you could have a verbatim record of an HR conversation, just as a hedge against a “he said, she said” dispute in court? Don’t hide a tape recorder under your desk until you’ve considered this

When religion may prevent dress code compliance, check further before discipline

06/01/2007

Employers can establish reasonable dress code requirements, including grooming standards. However, it’s not an absolute right … If an employee cites religious reasons for not complying with the dress code, look further. Don’t automatically discipline …

When is an employer liable for an employee’s discriminatory comments?

06/01/2007

In April 2007, radio talk show host Don Imus made racially disparaging remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team on the “Imus in the Morning” show. The Imus experience serves as a high-profile example of how discriminatory comments can have serious consequences when made in an employment setting …

Include complainer’s actions in sexual harassment investigation

06/01/2007

Sooner or later, you’ll be deep in a sexual harassment investigation. When you are, make sure you look at everyone’s words and actions, not just the alleged harasser’s. It’s especially important to get a complete picture if you sense that the employee who came forward with the complaint was actively participating in what she’s now alleging was sexual harassment …

Dust off your harassment policy or face the jury

06/01/2007

Too many companies’ sexual harassment policies are ancient history—drafted almost a decade ago after the U.S. Supreme Court laid down strict liability rules for how employers must protect employees from sexual harassment. But a dusty binder on a shelf won’t do anything to protect your company

‘Soft’ termination rationale increases chance of jury trial

06/01/2007

Does your disciplinary policy call for dismissing employees who coerce or intimidate other employees? Understand that firing an employee for violating such rules might make a jury trial more likely …