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When rude boss spouts off, expect little sympathy from juries

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in Firing,Human Resources

A supervisor’s foul temper can alienate employees—and wind up costing an employer big bucks.

Recent case: Shaunta began ­working for United Systems, a small printing company, as an accountant and was eventually promoted to the position of controller.

When hired, she told her supervisor she sometimes needed to take a few days off to undergo minor surgery. After a hysterectomy, she had developed a cyst that regularly filled up and had to be surgically drained. This typically meant a day or two off every few months.

Her routine practice was to let her supervisor know as early as possible and fill out leave forms. On her last absence, however, it turned out that the cyst required several days to drain. She called in and left a message providing the updated information about her plans.

When Shaunta returned to work the following week, she was called into the owner’s office. He de­­­manded to know why she hadn’t called him personally on his cellphone. When she said she didn’t know she was required to do that, he ordered her to “sit down, little girl.” She did not, and he ordered her to “get out” several times.

Shaunta went home, believing she had been fired.

Then she sued. A jury awarded her $180,000 in damages, including $100,000 for mental anguish.

United Systems appealed, but the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals said the award was reasonable. (Hudson v. United Systems, No. 12-2572, 8th Cir., 2013)

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