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When cooperation drops as discipline escalates, OK to fire for insubordination

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Some employees don’t take discipline well. What may have started as a reprimand over a rule violation or poor work can quickly escalate for one of these workers.

Don’t be afraid to increase the disciplinary consequences if the em­­ployee won’t cooperate or accept correction. That’s insubordination, which is almost always a solid and defensible reason for discharge.

Recent case: Warren, who is black, worked as a welder. When he found what he described as a “booger” on a work assignment sheet, he refused to sign it and complained to HR. Then he took an official vehicle home at lunch.

He was called into a meeting to discuss both incidents and other performance problems. That’s when Warren was told he had to sign off on a disciplinary memorandum or face further discipline for insubordination.

When Warren still refused to sign, he was suspended for three days. He refused to sign the suspension document and was terminated for insubordination.

He sued, alleging race discrimination.

But the court tossed out his lawsuit, reasoning that the employer was within its rights to demand a signature on the memoranda and that Warren’s subsequent insubordination was a legitimate termination reason. (Wat­­kins v. Recreation and Park Com­­miss­­ion, No. 14-30326, 5th Cir., 2014)

Final note: Don’t let an angry, uncooperative worker contaminate the workplace. Morale will suffer if others see co-workers get away with breaking the rules. You can and should insist that employees accept discipline.

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