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Discipline / Investigations

HR investigations: Good faith–not perfection–required

09/01/2012
Courts don’t expect perfection from an HR investigation. They just want to see that someone in authority took reasonable steps to learn the truth.

Worker fired for gross misconduct? No COBRA

09/01/2012
Employers can’t terminate em­­ployees just because a sick dependent increases health insurance costs for the employer. That violates ERISA. But if the employee is terminated for unrelated gross misconduct, he has no ERISA or COBRA claim.

5 rules for documenting HR decision-making

08/25/2012
The best way to prevent lawsuits or to get a quick dismissal of unfounded charges is to document every employment decision carefully. Following these five simple rules can convince judges and juries that your HR decision-making is legit, above board and fully in line with the law.

Document disciplinary details to show why same violation resulted in different punishment

08/14/2012

You probably have some general rules about what employees are and are not allowed to do. If you’re smart, your rules are flexible enough for you to tailor punishment that fits the crime. Faced with such inherent ambiguity, be sure to document the specifics of all discipline.

Consistent discipline makes it easier to beat employees’ discrimination lawsuits

08/13/2012
For employers, the best way to win discrimination lawsuits is consistency. When you enforce a workplace rule, do so for everyone who violates that rule—every time. That makes it difficult for an employee to cry discrimination over a discipline dispute.

Firing for theft? Well-founded suspicion enough to go on

08/02/2012
If you suspect an employee has been stealing, you can and should discipline him. You don’t need absolute and irrefutable proof. It’s enough that you reasonably believed he stole.

Heard sexual harassment complaint is coming? Immediately launch your investigation

08/02/2012

When HR receives a complaint about sexual or some other form of harassment, immediately put your investigation machinery in motion. Start gathering information before you even meet with the complaining employee. That way, you can’t be accused of ignoring the problem …

Add credibility to investigation notes by having employees acknowledge their accuracy

08/01/2012

If you interview employees during the course of investigating alleged misconduct, make sure to take accurate notes. Then, before concluding the interview, have the employee read and sign the notes, attesting that they accurately reflect what was said. Don’t let the employee put off signing.

Court: Pregnancy plus slipshod discharge investigation doesn’t warrant negligence suit

08/01/2012
A federal court has refused to expand the ways an employee can sue for alleged pregnancy discrimination. Had the female plaintiff succeeded, the case might have opened the door to a runaway jury award.

Beware retaliation following internal bias investigation

08/01/2012
The 7th Circuit has held that employees who participate in employer internal investigations before administrative charges or lawsuits have been filed are not protected from retaliation. It’s different, however, after such charges have been filed.