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Documented insubordination can often sink employee’s discrimination lawsuit

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

Employees who sue for discrimination have to prove they are members of a protected class, were qualified for the position they held, were terminated or subjected to another adverse action and were treated less favorably than employees outside their protected class.

Employers that can show the em­­ployee was insubordinate can quickly win such cases. That’s because failing to follow company rules means the employee wasn’t qualified for the job and therefore can’t sue.

Recent case: Houston Police Officer Katherine Swilley founded a nonprofit called Texas Cops and Kids. When the police chief learned about the program, he assigned Swilley to replicate the program in other areas of Houston. At the time, he didn’t realize that Swilley’s entity wasn’t an official police department program.

Swilley’s supervisors complained that she refused to follow the chain of command and told them she worked directly with the chief, which wasn’t true.

Then the chief asked her super­­visors to meet with her to find out more about Texas Cops and Kids, which he now realized wasn’t a department program. She refused to cooperate and was terminated.

Swilley sued, alleging sex discrimination.

Her case was quickly tossed be­­cause her insubordination meant she wasn’t doing her job. (Swilley v. City of Hous­­ton, No. 11-20374, 5th Cir., 2012)

Final note: Always document in­­cidents of insubordination as they occur. As in this case, your good records can prove how uncooperative an employee was.

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