Reprimands and demotions are a normal part of managing people. But don't let supervisors take it a step further by broadcasting a reprimand to those with no reason to know.
In almost all cases, disciplinary actions should be kept strictly on a need-to-know basis. That typically means the employee, his or her supervisor, department head and HR manager. Always advise managers to keep such matters confidential, and never make an employee witha public example. As the following case shows, airing that "dirty laundry" could be viewed as an invasion of the employee's privacy.
Recent case: During a staff meeting, Bonita Vinson's supervisor announced to everyone present that she planned to reprimand and discipline Vinson. The supervisor then asked Vinson to write up her own letter of reprimand. After the meeting, the supervisor distributedto an even larger group of employees. Vinson's disciplinary action appeared in bold print. Vinson sued, alleging a violation of her right to privacy. A jury sided with Vinson, awarding her $10,000.
On appeal, the company argued that workers' comp was Vinson's only remedy in the case. But a California appellate court rejected the argument, saying such an invasion of privacy was not a "normal part of the employment relationship" and went beyond the "widely accepted community norms" of reasonable employer conduct. Therefore, it didn't invoke workers' comp coverage. (Operating Engineers Local 3 v. Johnson, No. A097487, Calif. Ct. App., 2003)
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