Bosses: When handling serial complainers, zip it

For a few employees, every workplace problem has its roots in some kind of discrimination. They’re the ones who continually file bias complaints, and they’re a continual source of frustration for supervisors who must constantly fend off unfounded accusations.

Warn those bosses that overreacting will only lead to more trouble. They must take every complaint seriously and keep their anger in check.

Otherwise, the next complaint will be a retaliation claim.

Recent case: Anthony Laudadio, who is white and of Italian national origin, worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. His personal life was difficult after his wife died of cancer. He used up all his leave during her illness and afterward, taking time off to care for his children.

Laudadio received frequent warnings for being late for work. When his boss wrote him up, he regularly filed internal discrimination charges alleging that he was being targeted because he was white and Italian. Eventually, his supervisor got frustrated with his late arrivals and placed him on leave restrictions.

Laudadio said that wasn’t all, though. He claimed the supervisor also told him that if he had a gun, he would shoot Laudadio. He added a retaliation claim to an existing EEOC complaint he had filed.

The court said a jury should decide whether the leave restrictions, plus the gun comment, were retaliation. They’ll have to decide whether a reasonable employee would be dissuaded from filing discrimination complaints if he knew leave restrictions and supervisor comments about assault would result from the complaint. (Laudadio v. Johanns, No. 07-CV-782, ED NY, 2010)