Managing a Difficult Employee Relationship - and Prevailing in a Subsequent Lawsuit
By carefully counseling an employer in its dealings with a difficult employee, we set the stage for a favorable outcome when the inevitable lawsuit was filed.
A health care company sought our advice when a recently-hired, management-level employee responded to constructive criticism by claiming discrimination. For two years, guided by our advice, management worked to mentor the employee - offering job restructuring, training, and various other forms of assistance. Rather than recognize his need to improve, the employee filed two separate EEOC complaints, alleging age, gender, and race discrimination. He also filed a harassment complaint against one of his co-workers, a police report against his supervisor, and a workers' compensation claim for the "stress" caused by the company's insistence that he properly perform his job. Finally, when it became clear that no improvement would occur, the company terminated his employment.
Predictably, the employee filed a third EEOC complaint, this time alleging - to no one's surprise. He claimed he was terminated in retaliation for the various complaints he had previously asserted. After processing his three separate charges through the EEOC administrative process, including several investigations and unsuccessful mediations, the employee filed suit, and we defended the company. Retaliation suits are among the most difficult to defeat, since an employee who claims discrimination is entitled to strong protection under California law. Armed with a thoroughly documented record of the employee's performance deficiencies and the company's tireless efforts to afford him the chance to succeed, we moved for summary judgment and, with that motion pending and an upcoming trial date, the employee agreed to drop his case, with absolutely no payment by the company.