When a good employee with no disciplinary record suddenly turns into a bad employee following, watch out. You may have on your hands a bitter supervisor who wants to punish the employee for disrupting workflow, creating scheduling hassles and otherwise making life more difficult.
Before approving discipline or a poor evaluation, look deeper. Check to make sure others with similarwho didn’t take leave weren’t treated more favorably.
Recent case: Marie worked in a retirement community as a certified nursing assistant and got good reviews. She had never been written up for any disciplinary problems or received a poor evaluation.
Then Marie hurt her shoulder while lifting a resident. She filed a workers’ compensation claim and was temporarily placed on light duty, since she could not lift more than 10 pounds until fully healed. She tookfrom that light-duty position to attend physical therapy and other medical appointments.
After getting the all-clear to return to work, Marie soon found herself under investigation for allegedly treating a resident poorly. That resident apparently got angry when Marie allegedly told her not to “get smart with me.” The retirement home then fired Marie.
She sued, alleging that she had been terminated in retaliation for takingleave and filing a workers’ compensation claim.
She noted her spotless pre-injury employment record, that another employee caught yelling and using “disrespectful language” with residents wasn’t punished and that the employer had aprogram but didn’t use it in Marie’s case.
That was enough for the judge to order a trial. (Villard v. Whitemarsh Continuing Care Retirement Community, No. 10-7230, ED PA, 2012)
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- When employee has FMLA history, beware punishing for suddenly going home
- Sudden FMLA leave? Focus on logistics
- Contesting unemployment? Prove misconduct was willful
- Investigations must be thorough, but not bulletproof to justify discipline