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Ready to punish slacking employee? First, have a talk with her

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in Discrimination and Harassment

If you hesitate to discuss problems with employees before disciplining them, it may be time to reconsider. After all, employees often admit their mistakes when confronted directly. Any admissions the employee makes during the interview can be used later to support your disciplinary decision.

Recent case: Patricia Scott was fired from her job as a field manager for an animal control agency. The agency said Scott didn’t arrange to have a captured raccoon tested for the deadly rabies virus and also didn’t properly record the amount of a narcotic drug she used to euthanize the animal.

She sued for race and sex discrimination.

At trial, the employer produced a sheriff’s department report that documented her alleged violation of narcotics law. Scott argued that the sheriff’s report was hearsay and should not have been included in the evidence.

But the agency pointed out that before she was fired, Scott had been called into a meeting where she was confronted with the report. During the meeting, she admitted she had not arranged for the testing or tracked the drug. That was enough evidence to prove the agency had legitimate reasons for discharging her. (Scott v. Caddo Parish Commission, No. 10-30703, 5th Cir., 2011)

Final note: If you fear an employee may react angrily to confrontation, talk to your attorney before calling a meeting. Always have at least two company representatives present during the meeting. That helps prevent he said/she said problems later.

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