Thanks for subscribing! Please check your email for further instructions.
By Mary T. O’Sullivan, MSOL
“Carelessness does more harm than a want of knowledge.” – Benjamin Franklin
Organizations can get themselves into trouble and create legal exposure when they flaunt common sense and the rules and ignore laws designed to protect employees and employers alike. I came across and interesting case study which can be a cautionary tale for all of us when we think bending the rules and making exceptions will slide by. That works until one party or the other decides to retain legal counsel.
The following is a hypothetical situation, not unlike so many we’ve all seen in our work life. It’s a notional memorandum that could happen in your organization, if people are sloppy about following rules, and using ethics in their behavior and hiring practices.
It has come to the attention of HR that Howard Humble, a 10-year employee, has retained legal counsel as a result of his recent termination. In reviewing this case, several facts present themselves as grounds for legal action for Humble to take against Sales, Inc., based on Title VII and the EEOC. In order to better prepare ourselves against future litigation, and to make senior leadership aware of the events regarding Mr. Humble’s circumstance, HR recommends we examine this case from an employment law perspective, as court cases are extremely time consuming and costly to all involved, regardless of which party prevails. Additionally, the behavior of Humbles’ two supervisors seems to emerge as the root cause for Humble’s action against the company.
While Randy Dufus, the first supervisor, is no longer with us, Ellen Enthusiastic should be held accountable for her actions in this case.
For example, it seems Mr. Humble’s recruiting process did not follow legal guidelines. Below are a few of the issues:
In light of the outcome of recent cases, including a recent Supreme Court ruling, it is now urgent that Sales, Inc., immediately publish company policies for disciplinary measures. It is of significance to note that without a published progressive disciplinary policy, Sales, Inc. may be subject to claims based on many of the issues Mr. Humble experienced while in our employ.
In the above-mentioned case, the plaintiff claimed that his workplace misconduct dismissal was based on his disability (drug and alcohol addiction), and he prevailed in the lower courts using the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as the basis of his case. However, the US Supreme Court ruled for the employer, the defendant, based on the company’s published policy of not rehiring anyone fired for workplace misconduct. Therefore, without a published policy, Sales, Inc. may be unable to withstand a legal challenge regarding disciplinary actions. Published policies will reduce our exposure to litigation and possible costly settlements.
This example may seem laughable, however, there are more organizations than not that try, even unwittingly, to sidestep proper procedure and the law. Without written professionalism and legal exposure are bound to impact, and even bankrupt, a company.
And whatever happened to common sense? How could a manager think his imprudent behavior would fly in a crisis situation?
“It is more from carelessness about truth than from intentionally lying that there is so much falsehood in the world.” – Samuel Johnson
Check out my new book, The Leader You Don’t Want to Be
Connect with Mary. 401-742-1965
Mary T. O’Sullivan, Master of Science, Organizational Leadership, International Coaching Federation Professional Certified Coach, Society of Human Resource Management, “Senior Certified Professional. Graduate Certificate in Executive and Professional Career Coaching, University of Texas at Dallas.
Member, Beta Gamma Sigma, the International Honor Society.
Advanced Studies in Education from Montclair University, SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University.
Mary is also a certified Six Sigma Specialist, Contract Specialist, IPT Leader and holds a Certificate in Essentials of Human Resource Management from SHRM.