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Tell supervisors and executives: Keep anger to yourself when employee files lawsuit

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Supervisors often get angry when a subordinate files a lawsuit. Sometimes that anger is justified, but supervisors should be careful how and where they vent. The outcome of the lawsuit may depend on how supervisors handle their outrage about being sued.

For example, calling a press conference and attacking the employee for suing may not be the most constructive approach.

Recent case: Angelita Kercado-Clymer worked for the city of Amsterdam. She claimed her supervisor had created a sexually hostile environment by making several sex-oriented comments over a 13-year period. When she complained, she said her supervisor retaliated by punishing her for minor transgressions.

She sued for harassment and retaliation.

The supervisor responded with a press conference in which he referred to Kercado-Clymer as “a chronic complainer,” “professional victim,” “one of his worst employees” who “blatantly lied,” “was never qualified to be hired,” “had always demanded special treatment,” and “can’t be trusted.”

The court dismissed the hostile environment claim but allowed the retaliation claim to go forward, citing the press conference diatribe as evidence. It said the punishment for minor transgressions might have been motivated by retaliation. (Kercado-Clymer v. City of Amsterdam, No. 09-0675, 2nd Cir., 2010)

Final note: Lashing out at employees who sue may win the battle but lose the war. It’s hard to prove a sexually hostile environment, but relatively easy to prove retaliation. That’s because retaliation is anything that would have dissuaded a reasonable employee from complaining in the first place.

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