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Biz Rules: Firing a complaining employee

By Beau Denton August 31, 2012

"Hey, someone ate my lunch!" “Even if the complaint is trivial, don’t leave it open-ended.”

In January 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP that an employee was allowed to sue his employer after being fired in retribution for a sexual discrimination complaint his fiancée, who also worked for the same company, had lodged against the company. The decision was one in a series of cases in which the court has ruled in favor of employees in retaliation cases. The most common cases involve employees who have complained of discrimination, unfair wages or benefits, or unsafe working conditions.

Florida’s whistleblower laws mean that once employees make a complaint, they are protected from any kind of retaliation by the employer. Employees most often sue for lost wages and benefits, but damages can also include non-economic losses like emotional distress.

Employers need to foster an environment where employees feel safe issuing complaints, says Matt Westerman, an employment law attorney with Blalock Walters in Bradenton. “An employer who doesn’t state complaint procedures,” he says, “can give a perception that they do not welcome complaints.”

Even ignoring verbal complaints can be a big issue. “Supervisors need to be savvy enough to recognize that an employee is raising a complaint,” says Westerman. After a complaint is made, supervisors should make a written record and elevate the issue, letting the employee know that the problem is being looked into.

“Follow-up is the biggest thing,” says Westerman. “Even if the complaint is trivial, don’t leave it open-ended—that discourages future complaints.”

PinterestOverheard

“Pinterest users are 70 percent more likely to buy an item after seeing it on Pinterest than they are on Facebook.”

Melissa Link of Sarasota’s Brand Eleven Eleven in a presentation about how to use Pinterest for business at the July CWC FPRA meeting at Polo Grill in Lakewood Ranch.

Metric

103.1%

Percentage the unemployment rate has risen for Americans 55 or older since December 2007.

SOURCE: AARP

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