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Want to guarantee a lawsuit? Just fail to investigate

by on
in HR Management,Human Resources

It is pure foolishness to ignore an employee complaint. Employers are almost always better off investigating the claim—even if the matter seems frivolous—than letting the perceived problem fester.

Ignoring the request may be all it takes to spur a lawsuit, bringing all the costs associated with litigation.

Recent case: Patricia Lee, who is black, worked for Sony BMG for years without any problems. Then a new supervisor arrived on the scene. During a staff meeting about possible downsizing, the supervisor singled out Lee for a tirade of verbal abuse. Lee also contended that the next day, the supervisor pushed her.

Lee complained to HR, but it didn’t do her any good. HR’s only response to Lee’s many e-mails and phone calls was that she should work with her supervisor.

Lee left work, allegedly because of stress. When Sony BMG quit paying her, she sued for discrimination.

The court read the complaint and noted that Lee didn’t give many details, so it ordered her to amend her complaint. But it refused to simply dismiss the case. Now Lee will have a chance to show that the supervisor was setting her up to quit or be fired. (Lee v. Sony BMG, No. 07-6733, SD NY, 2008)

Final note: Even if HR didn’t believe Lee, it should have investigated. Doing nothing when facing a serious allegation often backfires.

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