Occasionally, we all have to deal with overly emotional employees. Handling them requires a mature and measured response, especially if it looks like you may have to discipline them.
Advice: Take it slowly. Document each outburst or incident. Then rest assured that a court will appreciate your efforts to defuse a difficult situation—and not reward the employee’s behavior with a jury trial.
Recent case: Pamela, a black special education teacher, is from South Africa. Her native language is Zulu.
When some parents complained that Pamela wasn’t preparing their children’s individual education plans (IEPs) on time, a supervisor requested copies of any IEPs and class lesson plans in advance, at least four days before a parent conference or the date when a lesson would be taught.
Pamela complied, sort of. She provided lesson plans in Zulu.
When the supervisor returned them with a note that said “this is gibberish,” she protested and claimed she always prepared her plans in her native tongue because that was easier for her. She also complained that calling her language “gibberish” was discrimination based on national origin.
Later, when the supervisor approached her in the hallway to discuss an assignment, she ignored him and began singing loudly. To get her attention, he tapped her on her wrist. Pamela then pulled out a tape recorder and started screaming.
On another occasion, Pamela called the supervisor “a bold faced [sic] liar” and asked whether he was sleeping with other teachers in exchange for preferential treatment.
Pamela sued, alleging race and national-origin discrimination, as well as assault.
The court tossed out her case after listening to the school district’s calm recounting of the incidents. (Mnyandu v. Los Angeles Unified School District, No. B239104, Court of Appeal of California, 2nd Appellate District, 2013)
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- The key is consistency: Make sure similar infractions are subject to similar punishment
- Remind bosses: You're liable for disability discrimination
- Out-of-line! Take action when customers harass employees
- Act fast, train when sexual harassment complaints arise