Daphne Schneider & Associates Resources for Employers
Resources for Employers
A Tale for Our Times By: Daphne Schneider - 1/5/2014
Tip: When you detect a potential problem, take action immediately!
Note: The following, though based on my experience, does not describe any real person, place or situation. The tips and recommendations are not intended to constitute legal advice.
There had been rumblings from staff in the 45-person Administration Department for some time. Director Jones was aware of them, but until recently figured people were just unhappy because they were finally being held accountable, with high expectations for better performance. When first hired a couple of years ago, Jones found lax recordkeeping, low production, wasted time, lots of infighting, rumors of racially-based animosities, and staff regularly taking long lunches and leaving early. After instituting a number of measures to address these concerns, about one third of the staff had resigned or transferred. Improvement and progress, though slow, appeared steady.
Recently, however, something more seemed to be going on. Over the past few weeks, people had been coming to Jones, one at a time and secretly, saying things were going downhill. The union shop steward said some members were complaining of harassment by one of the supervisors, but were afraid to come forward. The steward wanted the supervisor dealt with. Jones denied a request for an adjusted work schedule for a senior staff member who wanted it because of health concerns allegedly caused by workplace stress. Turnover seemed to be increasing. Several grievances had been filed over what the director thought were petty issues. Finally, Jones was hearing rumors from some sources that one of the newer male supervisors was making inappropriate comments to female staff – but no one would provide details.
Feeling uneasy, Director Jones considers contacting human resources, but is unsure what to say since he has very little information that seems solid. What would you do?
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Situational Assessment: As everyone who has ever worked in an organization knows, it is not uncommon for many troubling issues to exist at the same time. The red flags in this tale are numerous. However, no formal complaints, other than grievances which have a process of their own, have been filed. If you are Jones, the temptation may be to ignore the unsubstantiated rumors and rumblings. Don’t do it. It is clear that Director Jones (and thereby management) has been put on notice by a number of employees that there may be illegal activity (harassment, discrimination) going on. There are probably other issues as well which, though not illegal, clearly interfere with the high performance organization Jones wants to create. Even though no specific information has come to management, with each day that Jones fails to take action, the employer’s potential liability grows and the organization’s performance declines.
Action Required: The employer here has more than enough information to initiate an investigation, even though no formal complaint has been filed.
Don’t wait for a formal complaint. If you have information that leads you to believe you have a potential problem, take action immediately.
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