Some employees are simply difficult to manage. They start arguments and may see harassment or discrimination everywhere. But sometimes they cross a line, implying they could get violent.
How you handle their complaints can spell the difference between winning and losing a lawsuit.
Recent case: Rhonda Theus worked for GlaxoSmithKline. She also ran an online business that published nude photos and engaged in live video broadcasts.
When her co-workers eventually found out about her website, Theus claimed they began sexually harassing her. She told HR that two female co-workers called her names like “bitch” and “whore,” and that others followed her home. Theus confessed that this made her angry with her co-workers.
HR investigated and interviewed many co-workers. They uniformly said that Theus was the one doing the name-calling—and that she also sometimes intentionally bumped into co-workers. The investigation was closed.
Theus then took a medical leave. When she returned, the disruption started up again. HR launched another investigation and concluded that Theus was the problem.
She was fired after several co-workers reported hearing her spew vulgarities and threaten to get a pistol from her car.
Theus sued, alleging that she had been sexually harassed by her supervisor and retaliated against for reporting other harassment. She claimed the supervisor had regularly propositioned her and offered her promotions for “special favors.”
The court noted that these were new allegations that Theus had never mentioned when she originally used the company sexual harassment policy to report harassment. Because she hadn’t, she couldn’t bring them up now. Plus, the court said her discharge was not retaliation for earlier complaints, but a reasonable response to threatened murder at work. (Theus v. GSK, No. 10-5649, 6th Cir., 2011)
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