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For most problem employees, deteriorating behavior and performance is a gradual process. Smart employers track the downward trajectory along the way.

Recent case: Obstetrician Christine Leitgen delivered babies as a staff physician at a hospital. Payment for deliveries was pooled and distributed among all the obstetricians regardless of the number of deliveries. Leitgen complained to management that women delivered more babies then men.

Meanwhile, management had carefully documented problems with Leitgen’s communication style and complaints from nurses and patients. The hospital eventually fired her, and she sued, alleging retaliation for complaining about compensation.

The court tossed out her case, concluding that records showed escalating problems before she complained. That proved the hospital had a legitimate reason to fire her. (Leitgen v. Franciscan Skemp Healthcare, No. 09-1496, 7th Cir., 2011)

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