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Sometimes, good employees go bad. Quite often, employers that suddenly have to terminate an employee who had been doing a great job find themselves on the losing end of a discrimination lawsuit. There’s one way to show bias played no part in the decision: Document the employee’s unacceptable behavior.

Consider this case. Clear documentation of an employee’s bad behavior easily overcame the fact that she twice had been "employee of the year."

Recent case: Sandra Fayewich worked for Redner’s Markets as a bookkeeper. One of the store’s regular customers frequently requested small change for large bills. Fayewich always provided the change, although there were times she thought doing so would leave the store short of coins.

When the customer came in on a day when Fayewich knew she would not be getting a coin shipment, she refused to provide change. The customer got angry and demanded to speak with someone in higher authority.

That manager—Fayewich’s boss—agreed to make the change. A shouting match followed, and Fayewich apparently told her supervisor and co-workers that she was going to punch him in the face.

She was ordered to clock out and go home. The market terminated her for insubordination.

She sued, alleging sex discrimination. In court, Fayewich pointed out that she had received two "employee of the year" awards and good performance reviews.

The employer agreed that Fayewich had been a good employee, but explained that it still couldn’t put up with the kind of behavior she had displayed. Company rules said disagreements were to be respectfully and privately handled—definitely not the way Fayewich had.

That was good enough for the court to dismiss her case. (Fayewich v. Redner’s Markets, No. 09-2596, ED PA, 2010)

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