It’s a fact that employees who think they are in trouble will look for ways to avoid termination—or profit from it.
So it should come as no surprise if an employee files an EEOC discrimination complaint after you discipline him and warn that he may soon be terminated. If you follow through and fire him, he’ll probably claim retaliation.
Fortunately, judges have seen and heard it all before. They can tell the difference between an employer’s efforts to unfairly drive an employee out and sincere efforts to get employees to comply with reasonable work rules such as attendance.
So you don’t need to panic if an EEOC complaint arrives in the mail—as long as you have solid documentation backing up your discipline and can show you equitably punish everyone who breaks the same rules.
Recent case: Kent Neely, who is black, worked for the U.S. Postal Service handling mail. Neely, however, struggled with attendance; he was late or absent 83 times one year. When he was warned he could be terminated if his attendance didn’t improve, he filed a discrimination complaint, alleging his female supervisors were harassing him because he turned down their romantic overtures.
Shortly after, the post office fired Neely, and he sued.
But the court said he couldn’t prove that he had been terminated in retaliation for complaining or that anyone else with a poor attendance record had been treated more favorably. (Neely v. U.S. Postal Service, No. 08-1473, 3rd Cir., 2009)
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