Employee can’t work well with others? Document that claim!

Posted this on HRS home page (free article) from Aug. 7 – 14 (not in Weekly e-letter)

Do you have an employee who doesn’t seem to be getting along with anyone? Has he complained about discrimination or some other supposed wrongdoing?

If so, document the problems, including any difficult interactions. If you don’t, and then later discipline the employee for poor relationship-management skills, he may sue. Then a court will expect you to prove you really did question his ability to get along with others and you aren’t just using that claim as an excuse to punish him for trying to air the company’s dirty laundry.

Recent case: John Petroci didn’t get along with his boss. He also complained to management that he believed several employees, including his boss, had perjured themselves in an age-discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee.

The company investigated, concluded no employees had lied and placed Petroci on a work-improvement plan, verbally citing his poor relationships with his boss and a subordinate. Petroci soon got another job, but still sued the company for retaliation.

The company wanted the case dismissed, arguing it had a legitimate reason for punishing Petroci. But the judge ordered a trial, citing the company’s lack of written documentation reflecting the alleged poor relationship with management. The judge said a jury should decide if the alleged management problems were just an excuse to punish Petroci for complaining about possible illegal behavior. (Petroci v. Atlantic Envelope Co., No. 06-2792, ED PA, 2007)

Difficult People D