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Discipline / Investigations

Discipline worker who complained of bias–if warranted and consistent with past practice


Employees who claim some form of discrimination are protected from retaliation. But that doesn’t mean employers can’t discipline employees who have complained. The key is to make sure any discipline is based on legitimate concerns and doesn’t go beyond that which other employees who didn’t complain would receive.

Have a progressive discipline system? Use it every time

Employers that bend their disciplinary rules after an employee files a discrimination or harassment complaint almost guarantee they will face a jury if the employee sues. Courts often see such deviations as evidence of retaliation.

Setting sound policies, following processes to a ‘T’ increase odds of winning in court


Employers that follow their own disciplinary process—even in cases involving difficult employees—benefit if those employees sue. When courts see a reasonable disciplinary policy that is applied evenhandedly, they rarely second-guess an employer’s decision to fire an employee.

Make it easy for courts to see your side–investigate thoroughly before disciplining

Courts don’t expect employers to set up the equivalent of a judicial system for disciplining employees. They just want to see a reasonable effort to ferret out the truth.

Make training for managers an essential part of your sexual harassment policy

It does no good to have a sexual har­assment policy if managers don’t know how to enforce it. Without regular manager training on how to respond to complaints, you might as well not have a policy.

Beware hasty discipline for FMLA leave-takers


Even legitimate discipline against a lousy employee can spell FMLA trouble if somehow that discipline happens more quickly than it did for other employees with similar disciplinary problems. Advice: Take your time when disciplining workers who have taken FMLA leave. It’s better to be right than fast.

Office romance: Don’t ban it; manage it


Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, but love might still linger in the air at your workplace. If so, watch out! When office romances sour, scorned lovers often turn to the courts to allege that a former lover was a sexual harasser. Here are three tips to help make sure Cupid’s arrow doesn’t harm your organization.

The key is consistency: Make sure similar infractions are subject to similar punishment


Employees who break rules usually expect to be punished. But they also expect to be treated fairly. Most understand that employers shouldn’t punish one employee more harshly than someone else who committed the same infraction. And if that other employee belongs to a different protected class, savvy employees know that attorneys will be lining up for a chance to file a discrimination lawsuit.

How can I discipline exempt staff for poor work?

Q. After the holidays, our hourly employees returned to pre-holiday productivity. But our exempt employees didn’t. What can I do since their salaries aren’t dependent on how many hours they work?

Log customer complaints to back up discipline


Customers may not always be right, but employers can’t ignore their reasonable and lawful complaints. Remember, you need to document those complaints at the time they happen—especially if it seems like a customer complaint might lead to employee discipline.