An investigation into a sexual discrimination accusation from an employee of a California corporation has resulted in the company terminating employment of the supervisor who reprimanded her, even though no evidence of sexual discrimination was found.
According to investigative reports, the supervisor had given the employee a written warning, in compliance with HR policy, for poor work performance and prescribed a performance improvement plan (PIP) in written form. However, the employee refused to sign the form, opting to file a complaint against her supervisor, claiming that she, a lesbian, was the victim of discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation.
As a result of the complaint, the company enlisted the services of an independent legal firm that dispatched an attorney to investigate the matter. After examining the appropriate personnel files and interviewing co-workers, the attorney reported that no evidence was found to support the charges filed by the employee, adding that it was clear that the employee’s work was substandard.
While this was good news for the company, additional information surfaced from the investigation regarding actions, statements, and behaviors exhibited by the supervisor during the course of the attorney’s work that resulted in the supervisor’s termination of employment.
According to the attorney, the supervisor was uncooperative as well as untruthful during the course of the investigation. The report claimed that he refused to disclose the organizational structure of his subordinates, and that he would not disclose names of employees who had complained about the work performance of the employee who originally complained.
The report added that the supervisor freely admitted to regularly breaking company policy in regards to actions that could be interpreted as sexual harassment, as well as making comments and/or jokes that were of a sexual or racial nature. The attorney added that he made such a joke in her presence during the investigation.
Efforts to appeal the termination have been made by the supervisor to a California appeals court, but were unsuccessful due to the fact that the termination was based on accusations of deceptive practices on the part of the supervisor. Such actions are not protected by California law.
Employment law can be a complicated matter, especially since these laws vary from state to state. Therefore, it is important for companies, as well as those in management or supervisory positions within those companies, to be familiar with applicable laws and have attorneys on retainer who are experienced in all matters of employment law for the state in which they do business.
Source: HR.BLR.com, “Workplace investigations: California court rules deceptive activity isn’t protected“, May 07, 2013