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Check reviews: Has employee ever complained?

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

As an HR pro, you probably have to review all employee evaluations as well as records of employee complaints. Keep close tabs on both.

Why is that important? Because even an all-star employee can let her performance slip or do something that breaks company rules. And if you dis­cipline an employee who has had a spotless record up until then, and who happens to have complained about discrimination, you could easily find yourself facing a retaliation lawsuit.

Recent case: Lavern Deer, who is black, worked for a pediatric medical practice and did well for the first few years. While her reviews were excellent, they always included constructive comments on what she could do better. For example, one review noted that she should spend more time out of her office and on the floor interacting with her subordinates.

When Deer was passed over for a promotion, she filed a discrimination complaint.

Around that time, her supervisor noted, her behavior began to change. He said she became more argu­mentative—even rude—and holed up in her office more and more.

Finally, the practice checked her computer and discovered that she was spending quite a bit of time at work performing work for several community organizations where she volunteered. The practice’s computer policies prohibited personal use of equipment.

She was fired after admitting she sent private emails on company time, something the practice said was insubordination. That’s when Deer sued, alleging retaliation for her bias complaint.

But the court believed evi­dence that Deer wasn’t the perfect employee she tried to portray. In­­stead, it saw the clear documentation—the earlier performance evaluations—that showed she wasn’t sustaining her prior performance level. It dismissed her case. (Deer v. Saltzman, Tanis, Pittell, Levin & Jacobson, No. 0-61588, SD FL, 2011)

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