MOUNT VERNON — A seminar on “Disciplining Difficult Employees” attracted a full house to the basement meeting room of the Memorial Building Monday afternoon. Elected officials, department heads and other supervisors took advantage of the County Risk Sharing Authority program on how to handle complaints, accusations and disciplinary investigations and avoid being the target of lawsuits from employees that had to be fired.
Some Delaware County supervisors also attended, because they were unable to attend the session held there. The seminar was conducted by Frank Hatfield.
Hatfield could easily have fallen into a dry, legalistic presentation of the issue, but effectively used humor and accounts of actual incidents in a fast-paced presentation to keep the audience alert and interested as they learned something about documentation, legitimate reasons for firing, standards of conduct for supervisors, how administrative investigations are handled and how they are different from criminal investigations, avoiding accusations of retaliation, and mistakes that could void a disciplinary action.
One of those mistakes is not properly documenting their responses to workplace complaints. Hatfield gave an example of a case he was familiar with in which an employee complained that a neighboring employee was wearing a perfume she was apparently allergic to. The employer investigated, arranged for the other employee to quit wearing that perfume and arranged to let everyone know about the resulting new situation.
A few years later, a new employee came in, wearing the same perfume and the original complainer filed a suit against the company, saying it had ignored her problem. Because they had the report of the incident on file, they could show the company had responded to the employee’s earlier complaint.
County Auditor Jonette Curry said she thought the seminar was valuable, probably even more so for new officials.
“We got a crash course to follow up on,” she said.
County Treasurer Shelley Coon is one of those new officials and she said she found the seminar to be “Very interesting. I don’t foresee any problems but now we know more about the proper way to handle these issues correctly.”
County Prosecutor John Thatcher also attended and said that in his experience some of the most common problems were some of those mentioned: Not having up to date job descriptions, not doing proper employee evaluations and not documenting incidents and the actions taken.
Contact Chuck MartinEmail
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