No matter how ill-advised the order, insubordination can be a valid discharge reason — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

No matter how ill-advised the order, insubordination can be a valid discharge reason

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Sometimes employees balk at following their supervisors’ directions—especially when they consider an order ill-advised or even stupid.

But the underlying wisdom of the directive doesn’t excuse an employee’s angry reaction. He or she can still be terminated for insubordination if he responded inappropriately.

Recent case: Jiann Chang worked for a university and allegedly refused to allow a student to take a test despite having a valid medical excuse. Chang’s supervisor ordered him to allow the student to take the exam and Chang got angry. He allegedly yelled at the supervisor and refused to follow her order.

Then the university declined to renew Chang’s contract, citing his response to the testing incident. Chang sued, alleging national-origin discrimination.

In court, Chang tried to justify his outburst by explaining why he had been so angry about the supervisor’s decision to allow the student to take the exam.

But the court said the underlying reason was irrelevant unless it was based on national origin. It didn’t matter if the decision was good or bad. What mattered was that Chang responded in a way the university concluded was insubordinate. The court said it had every right to demand good behavior and punish bad behavior.

Plus, the court said there was no evidence that anyone outside Chang’s protected class was treated differently under similar circumstances. (Chang v. Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, No. 09-11290, 11th Cir., 2009)

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