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OK to differentiate between probationary, other employees

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Occasionally, you can tell early on that an employee isn’t going to work out. Perhaps she doesn’t seem to be catching on very well, or maybe she treats co-workers or supervisors with disrespect. While you might put up with some level of poor behavior from a proven long-term employee, you don’t have to do so with a probationary one.

Recent case: Angela Morrall went to work for the U.S. Department of Defense as a probationary employee. By all accounts, she was a difficult employee who “demonstrated disrespectful and disruptive behavior.” She was terminated before becoming a permanent employee.

Morrall sued, alleging discrimination. But she couldn’t point to another probationary employee with a similar disciplinary record who hadn’t been fired.

The court ruled against Morrall. It didn’t matter that some permanent employees who couldn’t get along with others kept their jobs. (Morrall v. Gates, No. 09-1277, 4th Cir., 2010)

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