When Colorado state employee Tomas Cisneros took medical leave for back problems, his boss—with whom Cisneros had sometimes clashed—demanded frequent medical updates. After returning to work, Cisneros one day arrived without the medical info his boss had requested. He found himself locked out. Cisneros called his wife, who interpreted something he said as meaning a hostage situation had occurred. She called police, sending armed officers to the workplace. After the incident, the employer placed Cisneros on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.
He sued, claiming the suspension was retaliation for taking medical leave. But the court dismissed his case, reasoning that paid administrative leave wasn’t punishment, but merely designed to allow for a fast, fair and impartial investigation. (Cisneros v. State of Colorado, No. 03-CV-02122, DC CO, 2007)
Advice: When things get heated in the workplace, call a timeout. You need time to investigate what’s going on, and employees may need time to cool down. Paid administrative leave is often the best way to do that. Continue to pay the employee (and provide benefits) so he won’t be able to point to the suspension as an adverse employment action.
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