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It’s All About the Documentation

She said it could never happen at her company. They were all just like family. But listen to this.

Mary owned and operated a small bakery where she employed 15 people. Everyone knew each other and the work environment was relaxed and informal. When Mary started her business she vowed that it would never be stuffy and she went out of her way to joke with all her staff. One day Mary’s head baker said he needed to hire an assistant and recommended someone he knew who had worked at the local supermarket bakery. Mary said okay and the new employee started the next day.

After a couple of weeks, the new employee began to complain to her co-workers that the people, especially Mary, were disrespectful and she didn’t feel comfortable with all the off-color jokes that were constantly going back and forth. Mary didn’t want to rock anyone’s boat so she asked her baker to speak to his new assistant. He said not to worry about it. The new gal just needed time to settle in and he’d keep an eye on the situation.

A few days later several of Mary’s long time employees complained that the new employee’s constant griping about the atmosphere and sour looks she gave them whenever someone told a joke were getting everyone down and no one wanted to in come to work. Mary made the decision to fire the new gal.

Two days later Mary got a notice that her former employee filed an EEOC charge of harassment and retaliation against Mary’s company. Unfortunately, things did not go well for Mary. Because Mary had no formal policy complaint policy nor did she take any action when the former employee complained and she didn’t have any written documentation to support her reasons for terminating the employee, Mary lost the case. She ended up settling with the former employee for a substantial amount of money.

Is the employee a bad guy? Is Mary a bad guy? No, not really. But Mary admitted that she made several mistakes. In hindsight, Mary wished she’d listened to what the new employee said and that she had made an effort to modify her behavior and that of her employees. Mary said, it really wouldn’t have taken much to clean up her act and to get everyone back on solid ground without changing the culture of the company. Sometimes being one of the gang instead of the leader can result in foolish and costly errors.