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Stop post-firing harassment suits by tracking and investigating every complaint

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

An employee who has been discharged doesn’t have much to lose by suing her former employer. She may go looking for some underlying reason other than poor performance to explain why she got the ax.

And she may suddenly remember incidents that now seem awfully a lot like sexual harassment.

Your best defense to such charges is a robust harassment and discrimination policy that tracks every complaint. You’ll also want to offer proof that you tell employees how and where to complain. Those simple steps go a long way toward insulating you from liability. Courts rarely hold employers responsible for conduct that employees never reported until after they were fired.

Recent case: Andrea Anderson was hired by a Family Dollar Store—and fired the next day. She complained to HR, which looked into her dismissal and offered her an interview for another position.

Family Dollar subsequently hired her as a manager. Several months later, Anderson was again fired. The stated reason: poor performance.

That’s when she sued, claiming that during a long-ago telephone conversation, her supervisor had told her he was in a hotel in Florida and that she should be there with him, drinking a Mai Tai. This, she claimed, was proof that she was fired because she rebuffed the advance.

The court noted that Anderson knew at the time how to complain about sexual harassment and hadn’t done so. It dismissed her lawsuit. (Anderson v. Family Dollar Stores, No. 08-3061, 8th Cir., 2009)

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