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Document poor work to make sure firing sticks

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Firing,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Jerilyn Lucas, a bank branch manager, seemed to be in over her head. She struggled with basic operational matters. Her staff began complaining that she frequently missed work—and was surly when she was there. Lucas’ supervisors repeatedly warned her about her performance.

Then Lucas developed medical problems and took a month of FMLA leave. When she returned to work, several employees threatened to quit. It seems the branch had run quite successfully in her absence.

The bank transferred her, demoted her and—after her performance still didn’t improve—eventually fired Lucas. She sued, alleging gender discrimination (a man had replaced her) and retaliation for taking FMLA leave.

The court didn’t buy it. Instead, it focused on her prior work problems. It said, “Employers may fire employees for poor performance if they would have fired them for their performance regardless of their having taken leave.” (Lucas v. Pyramax Bank, No. 07-2021, 7th Cir., 2008)

Advice: Document, document, document poor performance! If the bank hadn’t compiled a long record of Lucas’ work problems, this case might have turned out differently.

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