Supervisor’s petty snit made his company look vengeful

by on September 7, 2010 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Cafe

“How would you describe your relationship with your supervisor, Andy Liberto?” plaintiff’s attorney Sue Moore asked her client, Jenny Santos.

“It was OK at first, but it turned bad after he reported me to HR,” Jenny said.

“Why’d he do that?” Moore asked.

“Supposedly I didn’t work my scheduled hours for the last week in March,” Jenny said.

“Did he ask you for an explanation before going to HR?” Moore queried.

“No,” Jenny said. “That upset me. I asked why he didn’t talk to me first. He got offended and said he was the boss. After that he wouldn’t say a thing to me. It was like he was pouting.”

Defamation claim
“All right,” attorney Moore said. Turning to the judge, she said, “Now I’d like to get into the events that form the basis of this defamation lawsuit.”

“Ten days after your altercation with Andy Liberto, what happened at the company premises?” Moore asked.

“We had a false fire alarm,” Jenny said. “It was pretty disruptive, because there were three or four customer meetings going on.”

“And the next day?” Moore went on.

“The operations VP called me in,” Jenny said. “When I got to the conference room, two policemen were there with the VP. He accused me of pulling the alarm, and the police arrested me.”

“Did you pull it?” Moore asked.

“Of course not,” Jenny said. “I was on the fourth floor, far from the nearest alarm box.”

“What about the video that the VP claimed showed you in the act?” Moore asked.

“The prosecutor looked at it and dismissed the charges,” Jenny said.

“But not before the local newspapers had reported your arrest?” Moore prompted.

“Yes,” Jenny said. “They wanted to get rid of me after my run-in with Andy, and they didn’t care if they ruined my reputation.”

Did Jenny win her defamation case?

Management Lesson
Yes, Jenny won a preliminary victory when the judge refused to throw out her lawsuit.

The judge said there was evidence to support Jenny’s allegation that false charges were made against her because of animosity resulting from the altercation with her supervisor.

Obviously, the company erred spectacularly over the fire alarm issue. But what about supervisor Andy?

His handling of Jenny’s alleged misdeeds couldn’t have been worse, and set the company up for her subsequent lawsuit.

There may be times when an employee’s misconduct is so blatant and/or dangerous that a supervisor must take action without hearing the person’s side. But these are exceptions. And a supervisor who sulks and won’t talk to an employee is behaving like a child, not a capable manager.

Cite: Ciemniecki v. Parker McCay P.A., No. 09-6450, D. N.J. , 6/7/10.

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