After poor-performing worker complains about e-mail, should we follow through on plans to fire?

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in Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Office Communication,Performance Reviews,Workplace Communication

Q. Admittedly, this is an odd-ball question. My HR department just received a complaint from an employee about risqué e-mails that some of her co-workers were trading back and forth. Coincidentally, the employee who complained is also slotted for termination because of poor performance and attendance problems. Is there any risk in terminating this employee in light of her recent complaint?

A. While no termination is risk-free, you can rest a little easier. The Ohio Court of Appeals recently decided a case in which an employee who had been terminated had objected to a sex-toy party being organized by some of her co-workers. The court ruled that “retaliation against an employee for opposing a sex-toy party simply does not constitute retaliation for opposing unlawful discrimination….”

Separately, you should consider addressing why your employees are using company resources to discuss off-color subjects. If you have an electronic communications policy, I would imagine these e-mails were in violation. If not, you should give serious consideration to issuing these policies to educate employees about the proper use of your computer systems and other communication tools.

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