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Unhappy employee? Carefully track complaints

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in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management,Human Resources

You know this employee—the one who’s never happy and always finds something to complain about. It may be tempting to ignore repeated complaints, but that’s probably a mistake.

Carefully document all her gripes. Those records could come in handy later if she files a lawsuit.

Consider this recent case in which an employee sued over a lightened workload—after she herself requested the change.

Recent case: Phyllis Atkinson, who is black, retired and then sued her former employer for alleged race discrimination. Among her complaints: that her workload had been reduced below those of other em­­ployees. She said the change was an adverse em­­ployment action and made it the basis of her lawsuit.

But her former employer pointed out that it was Atkinson who told her supervisors that she couldn’t handle her workload and needed less work.

It also explained to the court that each time Atkinson had complained about working conditions, it did as she requested. For example, when she complained that a white co-worker received a new desk, she got one, too. When she groused that her performance review was too low (although it was good), management listened and gave her a few additional points, increasing her total score.

The court said Atkinson hadn’t made a case for either discrimination or retaliation. Every complaint she made was investigated. Any arguably discriminatory conduct was fixed almost immediately. The court noted that the fact that her workload was reduced was squarely Atkinson’s own fault, based on her request for less work. Her case was dismissed. (Atkinson v. North Jersey Developmental, et al., No. 10-4251, 3rd Cir., 2011)

Final note: Do you track every complaint and the response? If not, you should. You never know when good records will come in handy.

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