Act fast when chronic complainer has real gripe

We’ve all dealt with employees who constantly make petty complaints about others. We’d rather just ignore the litany, but that’s probably not the best course of action. Buried beneath the nonsensical complaints may be a genuine one—one that requires prompt action.

As the following case shows, acting right away when a legitimate gripe surfaces can mean the difference between a lawsuit and the same case being dismissed before it ever gets to trial.

Recent case: Patricia Shook had a reputation for being a troublemaker at work. She constantly complained about others, even while she called them offensive pet names and belittled them. Eventually, someone spread a nasty rumor about Shook—that she was having an affair with some of her co-workers.

She complained, and the employer’s investigation found that the rumor was false. The rumormonger was fired. Shortly after, so was Shook—for insubordination after being called in to a meeting to discuss her abrasive conduct, where she requested to be transferred to a “less stressful” position without a pay cut. She sued for sexual harassment and sex discrimination.

But because her only legitimate gripe was the rumor and her employer acted right away to stop it by firing the person spreading the rumor, a court ruled she had no case. (Shook v. Shook, et al., No. 5:06-CV-76, WD NC, 2007)

Final note: As the saying goes, even a blind squirrel sometimes finds an acorn. Treat every complaint seriously, no matter who is making the complaint.