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Harassment victims aren’t immune from discipline; document actions

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Retaliating against employees for filing harassment complaints is an obvious no-no. But that doesn't mean employees automatically earn a "Do not touch" label because they've filed a complaint, even if you've concluded the employee did suffer harassment.

You can still discipline underperforming employees as long as you can back up that discipline with solid evidence of the poor performance.

The key point: Document your evidence before an employee files a complaint. A flurry of post-complaint job critiques will look a lot like retaliation. (That's why ongoing employee performance logs can save your life in court.)

Courts know that employees sometimes toss up harassment complaints as a smoke screen against legitimate criticism of their deficiencies.

Don't let them bully you by threatening such claims; document and discipline just as you would any employee. Just make sure you also investigate the harassment complaint and punish the harasser if warranted.

Recent case: Karen Kasper, an insurance company employee, complained about a supervisor who was harassing employees with dirty jokes. After she complained, the company investigated and demoted the harasser.

Meanwhile, Kasper was put on a performance improvement plan for subpar job performance. She sued, alleging retaliation for reporting the harasser.

The court dismissed the case, pointing to the company's written evidence that backed up Kasper's poor performance, including some that predated her complaint. (Kasper v. Federated Mutual Insurance, No. 04-3437, 8th Cir., 2005)

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