Some employees think they can keep from getting fired by going to HR or the EEOC with a discrimination complaint. Then, they reason, if their employer does terminate them, it will be retaliation. Fortunately, that’s not true.
Recent case: Loralie worked in loss prevention for J.C. Penney. She performed well, but often had trouble with interpersonal relationships at work. When she complained that a co-worker had touched her in a sexually harassing way, the company investigated and warned the co-worker that his behavior wasn’t acceptable. It never happened again.
Months later, new complaints about Loralie surfaced.opened an investigation, but she refused to answer questions. Then she apparently enlisted help in entering the store manager’s office to look at confidential documents. Her boss found out and called HR to request permission to terminate Loralie.
Meanwhile, she complained about the earlier harassment incidents, demanding that the co-worker should be fired. J.C. Penney fired Loralie instead, as planned.
She sued, alleging that she had been retaliated against for reporting the sexual harassment and requesting the co-worker’s termination.
The court said employees can’t use a complaint as a shield against legitimate discipline and dismissed her lawsuit. (Musolf v. J.C. Penney, No. 13-3407, 8th Cir., 2014)
Final note: Consult your attorney when considering the termination of someone who filed past complaints. He or she can make sure you are on solid ground.
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