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Made an HR mistake? Go ahead and fix it

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Everyone makes mistakes. If you discover you messed up, don’t hesitate to fix the error. You’ll look better in the eyes of a judge should you wind up in court.  

Recent case: Lovelle, a black man, was a machinist for John Deere, a union shop. A progressive discipline program called for a two-week suspension for missing a scheduled shift. Lovelle received such a suspension, but it was a “paper only” suspension, meaning that he never actually had to stay home.

Around the same time, the union negotiated a retroactive change—missing a shift meant only a three-day suspension. Somehow, Lovelle’s personnel file wasn’t changed to reflect the new, lesser penalty.

Around that time, a co-worker reported Lovelle for failing to maintain his equipment, resulting in product defects. He was warned that his performance had to improve. Soon after, another complaint about poor maintenance led to an investigation, after which management decided to discipline Lovelle for failing to follow instructions.

Because his record still carried the erroneous two-week suspension, management imposed a 30-day unpaid suspension, the next progressive discipline level. Lovelle challenged the suspension and within a few weeks, the company fixed the error and reimbursed him for lost pay.

He sued, claiming the mistake was evidence of discrimination.

The court tossed out his lawsuit, reasoning that Deere had corrected the error reasonably quickly. Plus, nothing else indicated that Lovelle had been singled out for poor treatment because of his race. (Banks v. John Deere, et al., No. 15-2058, 8th Cir., 2016)

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