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No cooperation? Start progressive discipline

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Some employees have such a chip on their shoulders that they balk at work that falls outside their usual duties. When lack of cooperation crosses the line into insubordination, it’s time to implement your progressive discipline system.

Lay down deadlines and tell the employee the consequences of failing to meet them. If the employee continues to be uncooperative, first warn, then suspend and finally terminate.

Progressive discipline gives you everything you need to defend against a discrimination lawsuit.

Recent case: Daniel, who is black, worked in the mailroom at Pitney Bowes for several years. When someone said Jesus Christ was gay, Daniel got angry. It also made him mad when a co-worker said, “You people are always looking for somebody to give you something.” Daniel believed the remark was race-related.

Then the company required all employees to take two online courses, one on ethics and another on privacy. The courses had to be completed by a certain date. Daniel simply refused to participate while everyone else in the mailroom dutifully completed the training.

Daniel got a warning and a new deadline, which he also ignored. Two more warnings and deadlines followed. He was finally fired after skipping the training everyone else finished.

Daniel sued, alleging religious and racial discrimination.

It didn’t take long for the court to toss out his case. Daniel had nothing to counter his employer’s explanation that it fired him for insubordination following several warnings about the consequences of not taking the courses. (Atkins v. Pitney Bowes, No. 12-CV-5575, SD NY, 2015)



‘Other duties as assigned’: 8 outrageous requests

Some supervisors expand the “other duties as assigned” definition to ridiculous extremes. According to a survey, here are some of the craziest things that administrative assistants say their bosses asked them to do:     

  1. Open his sandwich every day to make sure no tomatoes were on it.
  2. Throw a surprise party for a company executive’s dog.
  3. Type, proof and correct the homework of the boss’s son.
  4. Drop off his pet’s stool sample at the vet.
  5. Spray the boss’s balding head with sunscreen.
  6. Take a Johnny Mathis album cover to a tailor to find material that matched Johnny’s jacket.
  7. Check the boss’s pencils daily to be sure they were sharp enough. 
  8. Look around the office for “anything suspicious looking,” after someone had called in a bomb threat.

Note: Such nonwork-related duties are certain to annoy employees and could create safety hazards and legal claims. Encourage supervisors to keep employees strictly focused on business-related work.

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