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Track problems as soon as troublemaking starts

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Sometimes, employees who sense they are skating on thin ice at work will decide they want to keep their jobs, improve their output and adjust their attitudes to comply with your expectations. And sometimes they won’t.

Determine which path such an employee has chosen by tracking both work performance and behavior over time.

Recent case: Jackie, who is black, was an administrative assistant at Citgo Petroleum in Houston. At a meeting, she loudly berated a co-worker for choosing what Jackie considered a substandard hotel to host a meeting. The other employee complained to HR that Jackie had derailed the entire meeting.

Over the following weeks and months, many co-workers and managers noted what they perceived as Jackie’s increasingly belligerent attitude. HR disciplined Jackie for several other incidents and issued written warnings for her to improve.

Then, Jackie allegedly followed another employee into the parking lot, yelling at her. She was fired.

Jackie sued, alleging race discrimination.

But Citgo showed the court its disciplinary records. The court concluded that the company had legitimate, business-related reasons for discharging Jackie, evidenced by its extensive disciplinary records. It dismissed the case. (Gudger v. Citgo, No. 13-20670, 5th Cir., 2014)

Final note: Citgo did everything right in this case. It investigated every incident, decided on appropriate and progressive discipline and then terminated the employee when it was obvious she wasn’t going to change her ways. The employer looked rational, deliberate and professional.

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