Investigate even ‘frivolous’ complaints — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

It may be tempting to ignore complaints you suspect are frivolous or unfounded. Don’t give in to that temptation!

Instead, investigate the case as you would any other, with an open mind. Then resolve the matter and document everything—including whom you talked to and what they said. It’s the best way to short-circuit a meritless employee lawsuit.

Recent case: Anthony Preston, who is black, didn’t get along well with co-workers or supervisors. He frequently argued with them and sometimes acted in ways that appeared threatening. He was warned that his conduct was unacceptable.

Then Preston alleged that at an after-work event, his supervisor had made a racially charged comment about Preston’s wife, allegedly saying that she was very attractive and he would “like to eat that chocolate.”

HR investigated and spoke with everyone present that evening. No one could remember the supervisor making the comment, so the case was closed. Meanwhile, Preston got into another altercation with his supervisors. This time he was fired.

Preston sued, alleging race discrimination.

The company argued that it had investigated the complaint and could not confirm the allegations. Plus, it said that it had sufficient reason to fire Preston since he had a history of arguments and threatening behavior.

The court tossed out Preston’s case, reasoning he couldn’t show that the company’s discharge reason was anything but legitimate—and certainly not that it was a cover for discrimination. (Preston v. R.S. Hughes, No. 07-3519, SD TX, 2009)

Final note:
Never ignore potential workplace violence or any kind of threatening behavior. You must provide employees a safe place to work.

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