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Carefully track angry employee’s complaints

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

Do you have one of those em­­ployees who are never happy and always seem to find something to complain about? She can’t seem to get along with any of her co-workers, sowing seeds of discontent throughout the workforce.

It may be tempting to ignore the constant complaining or chalk it all up to personality conflicts, but that would probably be a mistake.

Carefully document the tension and your response.

Recent case: Antoinette Coley-Allen, a black registered nurse, was fired from her medical center job for leaving her station without signing out.

Coley-Allen sued, alleging race dis­­crimination and retaliation for complaining during her most recent performance evaluation about “culturally disrespectful” co-workers.

The hospital countered with records showing that Coley-Allen had been disciplined numerous times for arguing with co-workers, supervisors and patients alike, as well as for leaving her station, which could have harmed patients.

The court said that her “disrespect” comment was not protected activity, so her termination could not have been retaliation. Plus, the court de­­cided that her employer’s rec­­ords painted a clear picture that Coley-Allen was the problem, not her co-workers. The case was dis­­missed. (Coley-Allen v. Strong Health, et al., No. 09-CV-6036, WD NY, 2011)

Final note: You don’t have to live with difficult employees. Back in school, you may have been able to deal with bullies by ignoring them until they lost in­­ter­­est. That’s not good enough in the workplace, simply because the threat of poor morale can poison the entire work environment.

Be proactive. Investigate every claim. Get the facts down on paper and then act. No law says you have to put up with bad behavior just because someone belongs to a protected class.

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