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It all depends on what the meaning of the word ‘Involved’ is

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Performance Reviews

Over the course of a 16-year career, Ronnie McNorton found himself on the receiving end of many disciplinary actions by his employer, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). His misconduct varied from absenteeism to insubordination, but McNorton hung on and won several promotions, eventually becoming an assistant incident management manager.

In 2002, that advancement stalled, ironically because McNorton helped another state employee get her career off the ground. If only he could have kept his stories straight.

GDOT hired Joy Taylor as a highway emergency response operator, partly on McNorton’s recommendation. Before Taylor was hired, McNorton’s supervisor, Gary Millsaps, heard rumors that McNorton and Taylor were lovers. When Millsaps questioned McNorton, McNorton said he knew Taylor as a local tow truck driver.

After Taylor joined GDOT, the rumors persisted. Millsaps again asked McNorton about his relationship with her. This time McNorton said he knew her because he fished with her husband.

When Taylor became pregnant and claimed McNorton was the father of her child, Millsaps asked McNorton a third time about the relationship. This time, McNorton said he and Taylor were neighbors and baby-sat one another’s children. Eventually, McNorton admitted they had had sex, but weren’t “involved” because it was a one-night stand. McNorton was demoted for misconduct, but he and Taylor kept their jobs.

In 2005, Taylor filed an unrelated sexual harassment complaint against another employee. McNorton was a witness. A week later, McNorton was fired for excessive absences and insubordination. He sued, claiming he was fired for speaking out about the harassment.

The court noted that despite the suspicious timing, GDOT was able to show an extensive record of progressive discipline to back its reasons for the firing, and dismissed the case.

No word lately on how—or exactly what—McNorton and Taylor are doing now. 

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