Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Managing an overly sensitive employee

Floyd Sesson, a Black UPS parts mechanic, saw race discrimination in every turn within his workplace.

When UPS changed its policy to prohibit overtime for all parts mechanics, Sesson claimed that the policy unlawfully targeted him because of his race.

When Sesson complained to management about the overtime cuts, he claimed he further lost overtime in retaliation for his complaints.

When supervisors tried to manage Sesson, he claimed they were harassing him because of his race.

The 6th Circuit had little difficulty in affirming the dismissal of Sesson's discrimination, retaliation, and harassment lawsuit.

His race discrimination claim failed because the "no-overtime" cost-cutting policy applied equally to all employees similarly situated to Sesson, and there was no evidence that UPS permitted non-Black similarly situated employees to work overtime.

His retaliation claim failed because the adverse action he alleged, the denial of overtime hours, occurred four months prior to his complaint. Thus, there was no causal connection between the protected conduct and the alleged adverse action.

His harassment claim failed because the four isolated, unrelated incidents he alleged happened a year or more apart from each other and did not "permeate his workplace with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, or insult sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms or conditions of his employment."

We all have that employee who sees discrimination in every corner and at every turn. They become difficult to manage out of fear of a lawsuit. Fear of a lawsuit, however, isn't a reason not to manage a worker or implement policies that effect all employees. Instead, treat everyone equally without regard to race, sex, etc., document each performance issue, and discipline and terminate when warranted. You can't prevent an overly sensitive employee from suing your company, but you can put your company in the best position to defend those lawsuits when they are filed.