Unhappy worker rants and raves about others’ stupidity

by on December 29, 2011 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

When emotions are running high, it’s better not to make quick decisions about firing – if you have a strong case, suspend the person and then decide when everyone’s cooled off, as this case shows:

“The people who work here are idiots,” said worker Pat Shymanski. “Does the company send a short bus to the mental hospitals to find people?”

“Wait a sec,” said Supervisor Joe Howard.

“No, you wait a second,” said Pat. “I have to work with dumb, lazy, incompetent jerks – that leaves me to do all the tough stuff. I’m the only one here who knows what he’s doing.”

“I see you’re in one of your moods,” said Joe. “The way I heard it, you refused to do a job.”

“You heard right,” said Pat. “You go into a six-foot deep trench with nothing protecting you. You work with these morons.”

“We had to send someone else to do that repair instead,” said Joe. “And I don’t think that trench was as deep as you say.”

“You know what? You’re just as bad,” said Pat. “You’re a moron, too. I’m going back to the shop until you guys wake up.”

Joe fired Pat for insubordination. Pat sued, saying he was fired for complaining about safety, and asked the state OSHA to reinstate him. Did it?

The state OSHA reinstated the worker with back pay, saying the worker was fired for complaining about safety. In court, the worker seemed to have a legit complaint – that he’d been ordered into a trench without cave-in protection.

The supervisor said he’d fired Pat for ranting and raving, and stamping out of a meeting in anger. But the judge said the ultimate cause of the problems was the safety violation.

Take home for safety directors: Remind supervisors that if a worker is ranting – the world’s unfair, the company doesn’t know what it’s doing – it’s easy to write them off. But if there’s a safety issue involved, a slower approach is needed.

  1. Instead of firing or disciplining the complainer immediately, suspend him or her for a few days. That allows emotions to cool down.
  2. Investigate and make sure that there’s no legitimate safety complaint in the rant. If there is, correct the safety problem immediately – and proceed cautiously with any discipline of the worker.

Cite: Township of Leoni v. MIOSHA.

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