Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Let employees have their say when disciplining

When you counsel or discipline employees, do you give them a chance to have their say? For example, does your written discipline or performance review forms provide space for employees to explain their side of the story? If your answer is akin to, “It won’t change the outcome, so why bother?” consider Cozzuli v. Sandridge Food Corp. (Ohio Ct. App. 9/26/11) [pdf].

Sandridge Food fired Cozzuli after several years of poor reviews and performance problems. In affirming the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the employer, the appellate court relied on the fact that “Cozzuli signed his performance review and opted not to write any comments in the ‘Employee Comments’ portion of the paperwork.” The court did not believe it was credible for an employee to use performance critiques, about which he had not taken issue during his employment, as evidence of discrimination afterwards.

In depositions, I always make sure the employee confirm that the employer provided the opportunity to make written comments about discipline, and that they chose not to do so. It is powerful evidence that—as Cozzuli illustrates—can help obtaining a dismissal.