My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: Washington
I am the manager of a retail pharmacy in a large chain. There is quite a bit of background, which I will outline below, but the main gist is that a poor performing, frequently complaining employee has me in hot water with HR. I would greatly appreciate any legal advice in regards to the messed up situation that I am in.
This all started well over a year ago. I have a staff of technicians in my pharmacy. They are all good and efficient workers, except for one who I'll call Sam. I assigned my technicians to the tasks that each of them are best at, but Sam complained to corporate HR that I was not treating him well, as he wanted to do the typing. Even though Sam is very slow at typing, we arranged for that to be his main task, as that is what HR wanted me to do to appease Sam. HR looked down on me for not being fair, but I am supposed to be running an efficient pharmacy, not harming the flow of business so that someone can work on his preferred tasks. Another time Sam complained about the schedule and said I was not being fair, even though I was, so the schedule had to be adjusted to Sam's benefit and to the detriment of the other technicians. This was also considered another complaint against me. Sam complained that I talk more with the other technicians. I always stayed professional with Sam and communicated all pertinent business matters with him, but am I supposed to keep the same level of friendly chatter with the employee who keeps complaining about me? The entire situation became miserable. In each of several meetings with HR they let me know that they do not care at all about Sam's performance. They only care about my treatment of him. I was never unfair to him, but it appears that they only care about addressing complaints and Sam was complaining. Then HR verbally threatened me that on the next complaint that I would be terminated. They did not give me anything in writing.
I have done an excellent job for my store. My customer satisfaction rates are some of the highest. I've worked there for many years and love this location, but I wanted to change locations simply to not have to deal with Sam anymore. I applied to work as a pharmacist (not manager) in another location for this chain, but they blocked my application. HR said that I could not move while there was an active investigation. Then the HR person in charge of this case went on leave for an undetermined amount of time. I was stuck. A new HR person was finally assigned to the case months later.
Sam is not a good technician. He is slow. He does not prioritize well. He leaves tasks partially finished prior to lunch and at the end of his shift. Sam causes trouble for other technicians, the pharmacy as a whole, and me. The other technicians let me know that the are not pleased that they have to cover for Sam. Sam does not complete the amount of work that he should during his shifts. That leaves extra work for the other technicians to complete. Often the other technicians have to figure out Sam's partially finished tasks and then complete then for him. Sam has told customers that their prescriptions will be ready in 30 minutes, but then fails to do his processing steps so that I can fill the script. When the customers come back and their prescriptions are not ready they are pissed. There have been complaints made to the store and I am the one who looks bad as the manager. Yet, I am unable to do anything about Sam. If I say anything to Sam, he complains about me. If I do nothing, my other technicians complain to me and we all, including the retail customers, suffer from his poor quality work.
Recently I noticed that Sam's typing speed has really slowed down even further. I spoke to him about it and he said that he now has a medical problem that makes typing difficult. When my regional pharmacy manager (not HR) was around the other week I called in Sam into a meeting so that we can arrange for him to do something different. My regional manager acknowledges the poor quality and lack of speed in Sam's work. Initially Sam made the fuss about needing to type, but now he claims that he cannot do so. Sam was not happy about going into an unannounced meeting. He complained to HR about me yet again.
Now the new HR person in charge of this case is coming to meet with me. During the last meeting with the previous HR person I was threatened with termination if there was another complaint. It seems so wrong to me that I have been held hostage in this situation. I am a great manger and run the pharmacy very well, but it appears that a very low quality technician is getting his way. I have been guessing that HR has always been on Sam's side is that they are only interested in not getting sued by Sam as they clearly do not care about how to actually run the pharmacy well at all.
What can I do? What legal rights do I have? Sam has made it sound as if I have been harassing him, which is not the case.