When good workers go bad: ‘Employee of year’ award doesn’t give immunity from firing

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

Sometimes, for whatever reason, a seemingly great employee makes an awful decision that forces you to terminate her.

The key: Be consistent. Letting bad behavior slide because the worker is a stellar performer can trigger a discrimination claim.

The best way to show bias played no part in the decision: Document the employee’s unacceptable behavior.

Recent case: Sandra Fayewich worked as a supermarket bookkeeper. One of the store’s regular customers often asked to exchange dollar bills for coins. Fayewich typically did so. But one day, she refused because she wouldn’t be getting a coin shipment that day. The customer got angry and demanded to speak to Fayewich’s boss.

The boss agreed to make the change. A shouting match followed, and Fayewich apparently told her co-workers that she was going to punch the boss in the face.

She was terminated for insubordination. She sued, alleging sex discrimination. In court, Fayewich pointed out that she’d received good reviews and two “employee of the year” awards.

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

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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