Many employment discrimination cases are filed when an employee is either disciplined or terminated and they believe those actions were discriminatory. Although in many situations this may be the case, when employees are also engaging in disruptive behavior in the workplace, that makes their case more difficult to prove. It is not uncommon for there to be at least one disruptive person in the workplace. But, if you feel like you are being discriminated against, don’t let that person be you.
Recognizing actions that an employer may consider disruptive
Whether it is being disruptive, difficult or frustrating, employees can cause problems in the workplace that give an employer a legitimate reason to discipline or terminate them. For example, individuals who are constantly being negative, gossiping, or discussing their complaints and frustrations with other employees can be disruptive. Negativity is often an aspect of the workplace that many people do not work well with and when constant negativity disrupts other employees that can be a problem. If you have complaints about discriminatory behavior, you should be making those complaints to the appropriate people, not merely gossiping about it with co-workers. Some other examples of disruptive behavior include being disrespectfully, bullying, roughhousing or playing around, being threatening, or acting in an unprofessional manner.
Understanding pretext and how that impacts your discrimination claim
In employment discrimination cases, there is a formula for demonstrating that an employer’s conduct or decision making was discriminatory. Once the employer has given, what appears to be, a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the termination, the employee is then required to demonstrate that the reason “was not the true reason for the employment decision,” but instead was a “pretext” (or excuse) for discrimination. One of the ways an employee can show pretext is to demonstrate that the employer’s explanation “lacks credibility” and discrimination was the likely motive. In other words, the question is, would this reason have motivated a reasonable employer to terminate the employee? The courts have held repeatedly that an employer’s failure to follow its own policies in this situation can support a finding of pretext.
Some of the legitimate reasons employers can act on disruptive behavior
There are some legitimate reasons for employers to take disciplinary action against employees when they are disruptive. If those reasons are truly legitimate and apply to you, your discrimination claim may be more difficult to prove. For instance, when disruptive behavior causes the morale of the workforce to suffer, turnover rates often increase which costs businesses money. Productivity will often be adversely affected as well. Bad attitudes can also be contagious, particularly when employees adopt the negative sentiments of complaining coworkers.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Michel | King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!