5 Stupid Things Supervisors Say That Get Their Organization Sued
May 25, 2011 3 Comments
Supervisors and managers even those with the best of intentions can say some of the worst possible things. In some cases, the things said are out of concern but some are out of a desire to “remind people they are the boss.” Whatever the reason, some things are best left unsaid. Below is a compilation of some of the things I have heard and believe me when I say can and have gotten an organization sued.
- I think you suffer from depression and may want to see somebody. I do not think it takes me to say that comments like this may have been done with the best of intentions, but they can have disastrous repercussions. This is because questions about medical conditions and disabilities put you on record as “regarding” the employee as having a disability. And that can lead to ADA and other compliance dilemmas. In these situations, focus on the job requirements and how a person is failing to meet them. Do not make clinical judgments. It is OK to ask “What can I do to help?
- You are going to take 12 weeks off to “bond with your baby”? I don’t think so. There are rules regarding leave such as the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, workers’ compensation laws, and depending on where you live, state regulations. Remember managers and supervisors you are not alone – talk to HR.
- Thanks for the 2 weeks’ notice. Why don’t we just make today your last day because you are fired!!! Nice job because you have just turned a voluntary resignation with little potential for a lawsuit into a termination with every likelihood of legal action. If you must have a terminated employee leave immediately, pay the 2 weeks anyway.
- Are you married? Do you have children? Oh, what a lovely accent-where are you from? Questions that are not job related are out of bounds and always suggest a discriminatory motive. The employee can sue, charging discrimination, and you will have to explain why you asked the question especially if you did not hire them.
- You are fired, and I do not have to give you any explanation because you are “at will.” In some states and instances, this statement is probably true. But, as they say, just because you can do it does not mean you should do it. When you give no reason, you leave the door open for discrimination lawsuits. “You fired me because I am (insert legally protected category such as race, sex, age).” Leaning on your “at-will” defense in court will leave you vulnerable. Also should you fire an “at-will” employee, do not give a false reason such as “It’s because of performance.” It may sound good until you are in court defending years of “good” performance and “sorry, we eliminated your job” sounds good until a plaintiff lawyer asks you why you filled the same job the next week. Once the court concludes that you lied, discrimination will be the logical conclusion.
If you have asked these questions, quit and be thankful that you may have dodged a legal bullet. Learn from your mistakes and consult HR should you have questions. Your comments are appreciated and welcomed.