Many employers are easily frustrated by the amount of effort it takes to respond to even the most frivolous of employee claims. For example, if a disgruntled former employee files a frivolous complaint of discrimination, the EEOC wants you to “submit information and records relevant to the subject charge of discrimination.” The allegations in these charging documents are generally no more than one or two sentences long. For example, if the claim involves discrimination and discharge, you must supply all the facts, documents, and witnesses relevant to the discharge; submit all copies of written rules, policies, and procedures relating to the issues in the charge; supply responses to questions and documents concerning “comparatives” (individuals who the claimant alleges that your organization treated differently); and more. A company can easily spend thousands of dollars responding to even the most frivolous complaints and then have little redress against the employee afterwards, even where the allegations are completely unfounded! So, what can you do?
- Examine the process you follow when you make demotion or termination decisions. Are they consistent with your rules? Are performance problems well documented? Are others treated differently under the same circumstances? If you had to respond to an EEOC charge to prove your contentions regarding productivity, attendance, and so on, could you do so with facts, documents, and witnesses?
- Did you handle the event with care? That’s right, even where an employee doesn’t perform or maintains a sour attitude, you still have to rise above this and work with them in the way you would want one of your relatives to be treated. Again, many of these complaints involve nothing more than striking back at the perception that an employer doesn’t care.
- Don’t assume that the claim will go away. If there’s a deadline to meet, then meet it. If you have Employment Practices Liability insurance, send a notice of claim to your carrier. We would always recommend that you obtain legal counsel to assist you in responding in any complaint.
As long as we have laws protecting against discrimination, disability, age, race, sex, and so on, people will be tempted to focus on their “rights,” as opposed to their responsibilities. Instead of filing frivolous claims, most claimants would be better off spending the energy going through a rigorous self-examination. How could they have made themselves more valuable? How could they have come to work with a better attitude? If the job was so bad, why weren’t they looking for another one? How did they find themselves subject to the fate of a poor employer?