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Good faith–not perfection–is standard for deciding if wrongdoing calls for discipline

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Office Management,Records Retention

Do you worry that you need absolute proof of wrongdoing before disciplining an employee? You don’t. Employers have to be fair, not absolutely right.

Recent case: Maribeth Herrington, who worked for the Anderson Cancer Center, had trouble getting along with co-workers, including several men.

When management called Herrington into a meeting to discuss her working style, she claimed the center favored men. Later, when she was given a computer access code to review her personnel files, she discovered that none of the files was locked. That gave her access to other employees’ files, which she printed out.

When her boss asked in writing if she had printed out confidential material, Herrington denied it, based on the way the question was asked. It referenced a different date and misspelled the file name, so Herrington felt justified in denying her actions.

When the hospital confirmed she had printed the information, she was fired for dishonesty. She sued, insisting she answered honestly.

The court tossed out her lawsuit, explaining that while, technically, Herrington may have answered truthfully because of the way the question was worded, that didn’t save her. The employer only had to sincerely believe she was dishonest. (Herrington v. University of Texas, No. 09-0601, SD TX, 2010)

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