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PennDOT case shows perils of negotiating discipline

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in Firing,Human Resources

A former roadway programs coordinator with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has appealed his firing to the state Supreme Court in hopes of being reinstated. PennDOT fired the man in response to a sexual harassment complaint one of his subordinates filed.

According to the complaint, he asked the woman how much she would charge to have sex with him and also discussed bestiality with her.

PennDOT officials offered to merely demote him in exchange for withdrawing his complaint to the Civil Service Commission. They fired him two weeks after he turned down their offer.

The commission ultimately approved the firing, but the man now claims PennDOT’s offer to demote him proves he didn’t deserve to be fired. He argues that his conduct did not rise to the level of sexual harassment because the complaint centered on isolated incidents, not the “repeated” acts necessary to meet that standard.

Note: This case shows how negotiating workplace standards can backfire. While employers need to be flexible, inconsistent standards can cost employers in court.

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