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Fire away if defiance follows discipline

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

Some employees don’t respond well to corrective discipline. They may become angry and combative. You don’t have to put up with that sort of behavior.

In fact, you can use that reaction as a valid termination reason.

Recent case: Tiffany Marshall was a probationary firefighter. She was also apparently a would-be model. Enterprisingly, she combined the two pursuits on her MySpace web page, posting official photos of her wearing fire department gear alongside racy shots of herself clad in a towel or nothing at all.

The fire chief found out about the pictures from an anonymous phone call. Because there was an official policy against using photos without permission and against bringing discredit to the department, he decided to orally reprimand Marshall and tell her to remove the official photos.

He also issued a directive to all employees, reminding them that they were not allowed to use official photos for personal web pages.

When Marshall was called into the meeting to discuss the photos, she became combative, telling the fire chief, “I will not be talked to like that.” She then told him other firefighters had photos on their web sites, but refused a direct order to give the chief their names. She also refused to change her web page.

The chief then fired Marshall for insubordination. She sued, alleging sex discrimination.

Marshall couldn’t prove the department knew about the other web sites and only punished her. In fact, she had refused to turn over that alleged information. And the fire department was able to show that it had a solid reason for firing her: insubordination. The court ruled against Marshall. (Marshall v. Savannah, et al., No. 09-13444, 11th Cir., 2010)

Final note: You don’t have to put up with bad behavior. Just make sure you carefully document the incident.

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