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  1. #1
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    May 2014
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    Default Employee with Performance Issues Accuses Supervisor of Racism and Homophobia

    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.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    16,197

    Default Re: Employee with Performance Issues Accuses Me of Racism and Homophobia

    Quote Quoting tracijo67
    View Post
    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.
    I gave up reading this about a third of a way in because its just to difficult to read a block of text like that. Please edit your post to make paragraphs and to double space between those paragraphs. Thank you.

  3. #3
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    Sep 2011
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    Default Re: Employee with Performance Issues Accuses Me of Racism and Homophobia

    Notify your supervisor she is attempting to set up a discrimination law suit by intentional misconduct and poor performance.

  4. #4
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    Oct 2006
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    Default Re: Employee with Performance Issues Accuses Me of Racism and Homophobia

    Quote Quoting Disagreeable
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    Notify your supervisor she is attempting to set up a discrimination law suit by intentional misconduct and poor performance.
    I am not sure that is necessary at all. It appears that she has already been to both HR and an attorney with her allegations and no one was interested in helping her. Therefore, I am not sure that OP should address it at all.

    However, if you decide to go ahead and talk to your supervisor, you might want to simply give them a head's up that you THINK she MAY be attempting to set up a discrimination law suit by intentional misconduct and poor performance.

  5. #5
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    Nov 2007
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    Officially across the country from where I've been all my life
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    4,494

    Default Re: Employee with Performance Issues Accuses Me of Racism and Homophobia

    First off, no matter what happens, continue to do your job and DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT.

    Second, your HR rep in attendance did exactly what she was supposed to do and NOT react in one way or another. As a supervisor in a government office (believe me, I was one too) you have to keep a poker face, especially when employees who are trying their best to get over are involved. I'm sure you'll find if you did enough digging that her claims of stress and anxiety are a repeat performance...

    So, schedule your own meeting with HR where you can discuss your concerns with them candidly and confidentially. Make YOUR direct supervisor aware of the issues you're having (if you haven't) and the allegations she's making (which will no doubt get more grandiose as she discovers they aren't working to her advantage) and do yourself a favor ALWAYS HAVE A WITNESS when you're speaking to her. Put your directions to her in writing and keep an email folder in your inbox with her name on it to have everything where you can find it quickly. I actually used to do that to ALL my employees just so no one could say that I was singling one out. Anything sent or received by them, a copy automatically went into their folder (you can set your email rules to do that).

    Keep HR in the loop. Expect her to file a grievance with the union. Whatever it is, don't let her rattle your nerves. Also, see if your agency makes seminars and workshops available to you on how to deal with difficult employees. She's probably not the only one in your agency, just the first one you've had to deal with.

    Good luck!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Quoting llworking
    View Post
    I am not sure that is necessary at all. It appears that she has already been to both HR and an attorney with her allegations and no one was interested in helping her. Therefore, I am not sure that OP should address it at all.
    HR wouldn't necessarily let her in on what they intended to do if they intended to do anything and just because ONE attorney didn't seem to want to listen doesn't mean there isn't another one with little to do that won't...

  6. #6
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    Jun 2006
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    Massachusetts
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    Default Re: Employee with Performance Issues Accuses Me of Racism and Homophobia

    The OP should report everything that has transpired to HR, in writing, and then leave matters alone until or unless something else happens.

    If the OP is telling us the truth about what has transpired, (and I am not saying that I do not believe him), then he really has nothing to worry about at present. The employee CANNOT take legal action without first receiving a right to sue letter from the EEOC or the equivalent state agency, and he WOULD know if that were the case. The most an attorney could do prior to that is write a nasty letter.

  7. #7
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    May 2014
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    Default Re: Employee with Performance Issues Accuses Me of Racism and Homophobia

    Quote Quoting Disagreeable
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    Notify your supervisor she is attempting to set up a discrimination law suit by intentional misconduct and poor performance.
    This possibility had not even occured to me. I don't like to speculate about why people behave as they do because experience has kicked me in the butt each time I do, and I am usually wrong. So I just focus on any measurably harmful impact that a behavior is having. Same with her accusations; I could internalize them and agonize or get defensive and try to "prove" that I am not racist or a homophobe.... or I can do my level best to ask for and really hear feedback that focuses on my own behaviors. This presumes that we are all reasonable people and do not have hidden agendas.

    I do think it is more likely that she is unable to see her poor performance issues in the same way that I do, she is angry at me for pointing them out, and she is reaching for anything to maintain her hold on employment. I hope it is not as insidious as intentionally engaging in them so she can sue when she is eventually fired, which I suspect, given her admission that she would not even TRY to follow the PIP but would rather just sign it and be done with me when it ends.

    Thank you to all for the feedback. My manager was out of the office yesterday but I have been keeping her informed. The anxiety disorder was not news to me (when she brought it up I referred her to HR for possible FMLA or other accommodation and to the EAP hotline) but the race and homophobic complaint was brand new.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Courtclerk:
    This is awesome advise, and thank you for it. I already do have a folder for my employees with performance issues but had not thought to just maintain one for all to avoid the possibility of disparate treatment complaints.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Employee with Performance Issues Accuses Me of Racism and Homophobia

    CC's advice was excellent, and I say that as a former HR manager. IMO, your employee is well aware of her performance issues and she's trying to set the stage to cry "discrimination" when she is held to account for them. That's why you need to be pro-active about what you're doing. Have documentation of all her performance issues and run, do not walk, to HR first thing Monday about this race and homophobic issue. Get your side of the issue on record first, and don't necessarily believe your employee about who she's talked to and what they said.

  9. #9
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    May 2014
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    3

    Default Re: Employee with Performance Issues Accuses Me of Racism and Homophobia

    Thank you for taking the time to advise me and to everyone who did so. I am encouraged to see that there are so many types of professionals perusing this board, including HR and county government professionals. My question now is not legal, and I am aware of the basics of supervision, but this particular employee is a challenge on so many levels that I am frequently at a loss. I have been operating under "choose my battles" mode as much as possible or I would have her in my office several times per day. I am curious, from more senior managers and HR professionals, which if any are issues you would let go or fix and let go: incorrect timesheets done every two weeks, 20-30 minutes away from desk and unaccounted for several times per day, using cell phone in meetings, arriving 5-10 minutes late every day, taking my requests out of context to the extent that her responses are insubordinate (for example, telling me that I "forced" her to work and take a lunch at 5pm one day when in fact I had asked her to take an early lunch that she failed to do, and when she told me that she had not gone to lunch that day, I told her to leave early to avoid unauthorized overtime and asked her to please take lunch during the hours her union contract stipulated in future. Since that time, she has done the same thing two additional times and informed me after the fact, all on Fridays, coincidentally. She challenges in overt or underhanded ways nearly everything I ask of her and tells me that she discusses how unfair I am to her with my other employees (who are all in fawning agreement, according to her). I feel that I am failing but ironically it is that I have not been firm enough and far from causing her an anxiety disirder, she is running right over me, disrespecting me and my position, and I need to gain control quickly. I have been hesitant because every time I have even the most direct, matter of fact, non judgmental "let's work together to fix this" conversations, she claims anxiety and asks to go home early.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Employee with Performance Issues Accuses Supervisor of Racism and Homophobia

    Keep a log of all acts. Ones that do not require direct action, simply note. Keep your boss in the loop as to how they wish you to deal with it AND ask if they feel it appropriate to share the notes with employees union steward/BA so they are prepared and expect eventual termination.

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