Here’s an important concept to remember when disciplining managers: They are responsible for what goes on below them on the organization chart, whether they know the details or not.
You can and should hold them responsible for enforcing employment policies like those that govern hiring, firing, harassment and discrimination.
Recent case: Karla worked her way up during a career of more than 20 years with Walmart. Eventually, she became a store manager. Karla has a disabled son who needed specialized medical and therapy services, some of which were conveniently available near her store.
Karla was offered a promotion and the chance to manage a store in a different state. She turned it down because she believed moving would interfere with her son’s medical and therapeutic needs.
Soon after, Karla was disciplined for allegedly using old applicant interview sheets to document her hiring efforts instead of making sure that applicants were actually interviewed and rejected. Then, after a subordinate complained that he was improperly classified and underpaid, executives began taking a closer look at how the store was managed. They discovered numerous classification errors, resulting in underpayment and overpayment for some store employees. Blamed for the problems, Karla was terminated.
She sued, alleging she had been fired for refusing to transfer because of her disabled son’s needs. She told the court that none of the alleged errors was her fault and that she hadn’t even known about them.
That didn’t help her case. The court said employers can hold managers responsible for subordinate errors—and they don’t have to prove the manager actually knew about the problems. Essentially, it is a manager’s job to know about them and prevent problems. (Grimes v. Wal-Mart Stores, No. 12-50260, 5th Cir., 2013)
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