My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: minnesota
I work for a county government with a strong union for employees. I am a line staff supervisor and my employees determine emergency benefit eligibility, so there is a critical timeliness component to the job. I inherited the position and this employee four months ago. Unfortunately she had a supervisor who was, shall we say, a bit derelict in performance of duties and this worker had some fairly serious performance deficiencies that were not addressed nor discussed with her for the time she reported to him (approximately a year).
I first became aware of performance issues, as most supervisors do, through an escalated number of complaint calls from clients who suffered varying degrees of harm, ranging from distress at not being able to connect with her to an eviction or utility shut off due to inaction or incorrect eligibility determination. Over the course of the last five months I have documented probably a hundred case related incidents that I discussed with her, and either hadber correct or, if imminently critical, fixed myself. I also, through noticing the performance issues, began to see other disturbing issues such as, leaving work early without reporting it to me or putting on her timecard, hours of time spent away from her desk, obvious and overt disrespect such as text messaging and using cell phone during meetings.
I could not do a performance improvement plan or discipline her for several months as there was an open investigation on another matter; HR would not clear these formal actions until that matter concluded. But I did address, verbally and in follow up email, serious issues as they arose. Yesterday, I was given clearance to deliver the PIP and did so with a senior HR rep in attendance.
During the meeting, this employee told me that she was so sick and anxious from her interactions with me that she had to get on anxiety meds and see a therapist. She said she spent such huge chunks of time away from her desk because she was in the bathroom vomiting. She said she has lost weight, cries uncontrollably, etc. She also said that I am racist and homophobic and that is why I am singling her out. When I asked her for examples of behaviors that led her to this conclusion, she told me that I "disciplined" her for texting during a meeting when there were six other people at the table doing the same thing. My "discipline" was calling her into my office and reminding her that I had already requested that she not text during company meetings, and that in fact her behavior was called to my attention by two other supervisors. I hadn't noticed other employees engaging in the same overt and blatant behavior. Nor, I told her, could I discuss it with her if I had. She continued to reiterate that I was causingher physical and emotional trauma and singling her out. I do not know if she truly believes this or is reaching for anything to keep herself employed. What does concern me is that she was throwing out very, very serious accusations and the HR rep did not appear to be reacting to them. The employee concluded by saying, she had already visited HR and the head of HR and had consulted an attorney and none of them could/would help her so she was going to sign my "set up" and be done with it, and me, in 45 days.
I am human; I was and am distressed by her accusations, but for my part, have focused only on the harm her measurably poor performance has caused our clients and her peers, who pick up her slack. I am genuinely more concerned that ignoring or brushing aside her concerns may open my employer up to legal issues, although I do know that HRmay take steps that they cannot inform me of. I am a relatively new supervisor (3 years) and have not dealt with this issue before. I am at a loss as to how to proceed, both with this employee in the future, and if I should be putting myself into the awful position of asking HR to investigate her accusations. I just have a very bad and ugly feeling about this, that she is setting us up. I would appreciate any legal advice for how I should behave and address her concerns ongoing.