Employees who take
Recent case: Dynetta Cole worked as an executive secretary, answering correspondence for the Illinois Governor’s Office of Citizen Assistance. During her tenure, citizens sometimes complained that Cole was rude and unhelpful. Then Cole was hurt and had to take leave.
Cole returned to work on a part-time basis, but was often absent or came to work at unpredictable times. That’s when her supervisors presented her with a performance-improvement plan that included telling her bosses when she would be absent and not being rude. When she refused to sign, she was told she would be fired if she didn’t. She still refused and was terminated.
Cole sued, alleging retaliation for taking FMLA leave.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate her case after the trial court tossed it out. It reasoned that merely demanding that an employee work on an improvement plan wasn’t an adverse employment action. The reason: While the plan would have been in place, Cole wouldn’t have lost any pay or benefits. (Cole v. State of Illinois, No. 08-1754, 7th Cir., 2009)
Final note: Always make sure you can prove past . In this case, it was clear that Cole’s problems predated her FMLA leave.
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- Head off problem employees' retaliation suits: Document all decision-making as it happens