When employees behave rudely or in an insubordinate fashion, supervisors shouldn’t back off discipline because they fear a legal complaint. Your organization can, and should, enforce civility standards. That’s one of the best ways to protect your organization from hostile environment claims.
But make sure supervisors act promptly, enforce the rules consistently and document all incidents so you can back up any disciplinary decisions.
Recent case: James Amofa got into a shouting match with his supervisor over his paycheck. Amofa claimed that she handed him his check but asked for it back. Amofa told her not to mess with his check or he would “take it up with a higher authority.”
She fired Amofa, and he sued for race discrimination. But his case was tossed out by the New York Division of Human Rights and then by the EEOC.
Both said the employer had a legitimate reason to fire Amofa for insubordination when he threatened to go over his supervisor’s head. On appeal, the federal court agreed. (Amofa v. Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, No. 05-CV-9230, SD NY, 2006)
Bottom line: Not following civility rules is insubordination, which is always a legitimate reason for discipline.
- Set up employee complaint hotline to flag managerial abuses—and stop lawsuits
- Layoffs looming? Use past reviews to decide who stays and who goes
- Sample Policy: Holidays
- Consistent discipline makes it easier to beat employees' discrimination lawsuits
- Lawsuit-proof your HR operations: Document business reason for every decision