Smart employers respond to every harassment and discrimination complaint and follow up even if they believe there was nothing to the complaint. But some employers ignore this simple advice and choose to blow off employee complaints instead of logging them, investigating and making a determination about what happened. That’s a huge mistake.
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Here’s a tip if you are revising your employee handbook: When it comes to discipline, make sure you give yourself some flexibility to deal with unusual circumstances. For example, if you want to use progressive discipline, be sure to account for the rare situations that may warrant immediate suspension or discharge.
If your organization is unionized and operates under a collective bargaining agreement that calls for progressive discipline, think twice before automatically firing an employee you believe has sexually harassed other employees. Unless your contract specifies discharge for a first harassment offense, you may have to follow your progressive discipline program.
Your progressive discipline probably gives you some flexibility to hand out different punishment, depending on the seriousness of the employee misconduct. As a practical matter, that means you must decide whether what one employee does is more serious than another’s similar transgression. Make sure you’re able to explain why one offense was worse than another and deserved harsher punishment.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has handed disgruntled employees a big weapon to use against their employers. The court ruled that Joyce Quinlan was within her rights to photocopy company documents—some of which were confidential—to use in a lawsuit against Curtiss-Wright, the aerospace company where she once served as executive director of human resources.