All employers and their leaders should recognize the importance of timely and well documented attention to employee performance concerns. Addressing deficiencies as they arise, through documented counseling and honest employee appraisals, serves not only to improve employee performance, but often proves an important defense to employment discrimination claims. Several healthcare organizations have recently succeeded in defeating such employment claims due to those companies’ prompt and documented action in response to personnel issues.
Kraft v. University of Texas Medical Branch, (March, 2018). A former employee sued the University of Texas Medical Branch and UTMB Healthcare Systems, Inc., alleging discrimination and retaliation. Despite the fact that the plaintiff had asserted discrimination and harassment allegations in the past, the court found that there was a pattern of the employee being disciplined and then submitting complaints rather than the other way around. Specifically, the documentation reflected that the employee, the Director of Healthcare System Staffing, had been counseled regarding “getting along with her superiors and her coworkers even before she began filing complaints.” Further, the evidence which the employer presented showed that the employee’s “termination was supported by a factual investigation, noted and reported deficiencies in performance, and that the termination was recommended as being proportional in light of the severity of the performance deficiencies.” The court granted the defendants’ motions for summary judgment, dismissing the claims without trial.
Potnick v. Village of Glenview, (February, 2018). The court dismissed claims filed by an emergency dispatcher who alleged that he was terminated in retaliation for his intended use of FMLA leave for surgery. In refusing to allow the claims to proceed to trial, the judge noted that the employer had consistently counseled the employee several months before he first mentioned using leave and that the documentation reflected he even sent an ambulance to the wrong address shortly before being terminated.
Moore v. Mountain States Health Alliance, (March, 2018). The court granted the hospital’s motion for summary judgment, in spite of its former employee’s position that her supervisor previously made derogatory comments about her that she believed were age related. The court found that the former hospital admissions clerk could not prove that the actual employment related decisions had been made because of her age. Central to this decision was the hospital’s evidence that, prior to termination, the employee was criticized and disciplined several times for issues such as unprofessional behavior, failure to act appropriately, patient complaints of rudeness, and employee complaints regarding use of profanity.
Bradley v. Rhema-Northwest Operating LLC, (October, 2017). The court determined that a female nurse was not subjected to discrimination when she was disciplined and subsequently discharged due in part to her medication errors. Here, the employer’s documentation demonstrated that other younger and male nurses were disciplined for similar conduct.