A court’s telling response to charges of workplace hostility and termination of employment
Is it okay to come down hard on someone the day she returns from FMLA leave because of inefficiencies that surfaced while she was away?
Yes, as long as you can back up the claim with documentation.
Ostracized and micromanaged into termination of employment
While HR manager Marilyn Haley was on FMLA leave, results of an employee survey blasted HR – and Haley in particular.
When she returned, her boss came down hard, watching her every step and expressing displeasure with her past performance. Despite the criticism, she received the same merit raise everyone else in her department did.
After two weeks, Haley quit and filed a constructive discharge lawsuit. Her claim: She’d been humiliated, micromanaged and left out of meetings ever since she returned from leave. As a result, she said her quitting was on par with a termination of employment
Though she was treated differently after her leave than before, her employer had documentation to show why.
In finding for the employer, the court noted although Haley may indeed have been ostracized and micromanaged, she had also gotten a raise and her duties hadn’t been significantly changed, thus there was no termination of employment through constructive discharge.
The court wrote, “A reasonable employee who genuinely felt these working conditions were upsetting to the point of intolerable would have attempted resolution of these concerns before choosing to quit after just two weeks back on the job.”
Cite: Haley v. Alliance Compressor, No. 04-30007, 5th Cir., 11/17/04. HR 3.11
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