Legal Actions That Have Prompted Legal Action

Plaintiff:  “No one ever got back to me after I made my complaint.”  The emoployee assumes that nothing was done in response to the complaint.

Possible Change In Protocol:  Consider scheduling a follow-up meeting ahead of time with the complainant-employee for the purpose of book-ending the complaint process.  (It can always be rescheduled if necessary.)  You might share the outcome with him/her (without disclosing confidential information) and inform the complainant of available persons or options to whom s/he can appeal if unsatisfied.  

Defendant (Supervisor):  “I was trying to be nice.  I didn’t want to hurt feelings.”  Soft pedaling is a common denominator among “he said – she said” discrepancies.  Leaving things unsaid or saying them indirectly heightens the risk of misinterpretation.

Possible Change in Approach:  When delivering criticizing information – be it constructive or a form of discipline – consider delivering information matter-of-factly.  Provide specificity as to what gave reason for the confrontation and the changes that the employee can (must) make and you expect to notice.

Plaintiff:  “They said they’d investigate, but they never spoke to the people I identified.”  Employee feels his/her complaint wasn’t taken seriously and/or the investigation was not conducted in earnest.

Possible Avoidance Measure:  At the time of receiving the complaint, explain what the procedure will entail, its scope in terms of what information will be sought and the consequences of the process’ confidentiality – on the employer as well as those interviewed (i.e., instruction to not discuss the investigation).

Of course, check with your attorney or human resources professional to determine whether to implement any of the above and related pros and cons, as well as whether to document and ask the employee to provide a signed acknowledgement.

About Maria Hanna Joseph

Maria Hanna Joseph is Principal of Joseph Mediation. Her 25 years of experience in employment law, include 16+ of work and mediating for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination which through which she has gained valuable insight into the MCAD, its practices and decision making. This, as well as her experience in plaintiff and defense litigation, with private and public sector clients, international and local business concerns, and in issues from harassment and discrimination, to noncompetition agreements, business operation, transgender workplace matters, retaliation and many others, lend her valuable perspective for understanding and mediating an array of legal and personal issues. In terms of volume, Maria has served more than 2,000 cases. Maria's practice has been honed with study of mediation at Harvard Law School's Program of Instruction for Lawyers, negotiation at Harvard Law School's Program on Negotiation, and in the disciplines of Transformative Mediation and Family/Domestic Mediation, which are significant assets in managing the personal nature of employment disputes, and conflict in general. Attorneys and parties know Maria as candid, pragmatic and persevering in her commitment to help them achieve meaningful settlements while keeping sight of their most important interests. The insight and creativity afforded by her experience and training are realized in the resolutions that manifest. These qualities, along with her demeanor and the trust she engenders, have earned Maria a reputation for being able to manage highly tense and fraught situations and individuals, and settle a wide variety of disputes and tough cases.
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