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Legit discipline OK, even following complaint

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,FMLA Guidelines

Some managers worry needlessly that any step they take after an employee complains about harassment will mean a lawsuit. But as long as you can support your disciplinary act with a good reason—and you keep good records showing how you made the decision—chances are good a court will dismiss the suit.

Recent case: Milissa Jones managed a Flying J convenience store. A general manager, Butch Jacobs, supervised Jones and ran the truck stop attached to the store.

A few months after she started working, Jones’s attorney sent a letter to the company’s general counsel claiming that Jacobs had been sexually harassing Jones. The company investigated and fired Jacobs, apparently after confirming the harassment.

The company appointed an interim manager for the truck stop who knew nothing about the sexual harassment.

Then Jones began missing work. She was absent for more than a week and would only tell the company that she was not allowed to be on her feet and that she was waiting on medical tests. In fact, she was pregnant and was having complications but did not yet want to tell her employer she was expecting.

When the new manager couldn’t get an answer from Jones about when she was returning, he recommended that Flying J fire her for excessive absences. The company accepted his recommendation and terminated Jones.

She sued, alleging retaliation.

But Flying J showed the court that the manager who made the recommendation to fire her didn’t know about the sexual harassment and therefore couldn’t be retaliating against her. (Jones v. Flying J, No. 08-14913, 11th Cir., 2011)

Final note: Jones apparently had no accrued leave and had not worked for the company long enough to qualify for FMLA leave.

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