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Stop harassment lawsuits by requiring bosses to log employees’ performance problems

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

Here’s a great reason for insisting that all supervisors document their subordinates’ performance problems: If an employee later claims her manager behaved abusively, good documentation will support any discipline for poor performance. That could block a harassment lawsuit.

Recent case: Camille Thomas worked for the city of Chicago as a staff assistant in the Financial Services Section. Her job included entering invoices into the computer system daily. She did well under a female supervisor.

When the female supervisor re­­tired, Thomas began working for a man. He had an abrasive personality and he seemed to particularly dislike Thomas.

When she began working for him, her performance scores fell and she was placed on an improvement plan. Her evaluations included very specific examples of work left undone or mistakes made entering invoices.

When she was later fired for abusing sick leave by not calling in and for other performance problems, she sued. Thomas’ lawsuit claimed the supervisor had been harassing her because of her sex by yelling at her and being unpleasant.

The court noted that the super­visor treated everyone rudely and that there was plenty of evidence that Thomas was disciplined for legitimate reasons. That her supervisor was not a nice person wasn’t enough to sustain a lawsuit. (Thomas v. City of Chi­­cago, No. 09-C-6705, ND IL, 2011)

Final note: Encourage civility, regardless. A nasty supervisor who yells and screams won’t do much for workplace morale.

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