Proper Management Avoids Disastrous Results

Category / Management

Scenario

A not-for-profit employer services terminally ill patients by providing hospice care in the person’s home. The organization has multiple employees who care for the person and congregate weekly to discuss the patient and ensure continuity of care (nurse, doctor, social worker, etc.). Each meeting concludes with a “pep talk” by a clergy member. This is a non-denominational employer, but because of the end of life care, clergies from many different religions provide support to patients.

Situation

During a meeting, the clergy member’s pep talk was more religious than an employee felt comfortable with. The employee expressed his displeasure by saying “we aren’t all of that religion”. The clergy member apologized right away. However, another employee made a comment that the claimant also found to be very insensitive (“you are the only one different here, if you don’t like it, you leave!”). The claimant complained to management, then quit a week later saying he was discriminated against due to his religion.

The employer took immediate action when it received the claimant’s complaint. The director of the agency scheduled a meeting the next day and spoke about being sensitive to each other’s differences. The employer also immediately launched a sensitivity training program that was to last 6 weeks and which all employees would have to attend.

Within a week, the claimant quit because he felt that the training would not work. A few days later he attempted to rescind his resignation, but the employer, having no obligation to do so, did not accept his rescission. The claimant then filed for unemployment insurance benefits.

Solution

The employer was able to win the UI hearing because the judge found that the claimant quit without good cause. In order for a claimant to prove they quit with good cause is to show that they acted “as a prudent person would BEFORE quitting to try and protect their job.” Because the claimant quit before the training had barely even started, the judge found the claimant did not act prudently. The other requirement a claimant must meet is to show that the final incident, what propelled the claimant to quit, was “compelling.” The judge found that the final incident was not compelling as evidenced by the claimant’s attempt to rescind the resignation letter upon further reflection. Clearly the person acted emotionally and did not think through his decision before quitting, which the judge found was not enough to rule in the employee’s favor.

Takeaway

An employer must take employee complaints seriously and conduct prompt investigations in order to avoid unwanted consequences. This employee also sued the employer for religious discrimination, but the employer was able to successfully defend that lawsuit due to the action it took in taking the complaint seriously.

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