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South Carolina question I am the employer. (I am a State…

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South Carolina question I am...
South Carolina question I am the employer. (I am a State Farm Insurance Agent )I hired an employee on 11/6/17. She has not been a good fit from the start, she seems to have a problem with my style of management and with handling the requirements of the job. She is training in two areas....learning the office procedures, in which she sits with and shadows my other employees, and studying to pass the state licensing exam, in which she is doing an online class that she spends between 4-5 hours daily studying for. She seems to be struggling, which is not a good sign. I have met and talked with her on 2 occasions about her progress and other small things that she needed to address around the office. The last meeting, on 11/15/17, I met with her about 4:45 in the afternoon and the meeting went until around 5:15. My other employees left at 5. During this meeting I asked her to not come into the office for the rest of the week as I was going to be at a planning conference and wanted to take the time to determine how best to move forward. The intent when I did this was to basically fire her and to do it in a way that she would avoid embarrassment from her peers when she left my office. She left my office with that understanding but on her way out the door popped her head in and requested to come in to the office Thursday and 1/2 day Friday to continue to train. I obliged. I made notes of our meeting so that I would have them to reference. The following day, I received a call from my office manager who stated that this employee came into her office that morning and was using words to describe our meeting that weren't accurate. She said I was aggressive towards her, that I attacked her for not meeting expectations, (then stated that she didn't know what my expectations of her were), that I was bullying her. None of it true. She then went into her office and began to type for about 30 minutes, that was suspusicous to my office manager. I requested from State Farm to have access to my employee's work email account and was granted access over the weekend. There I found an email that she had sent to her personal email detailing her first 2 weeks at work and she used the same wording----aggressive, bullying, attacking---so this has me concerned that she is trying to say that I have been unfairly aggressive towards her. My employees will back me up, and my office manager has agreed to sit in on our next meeting to ensure that there is a witness to everything that is said. But my concern now is that I do not feel comfortable having any interaction with her without knowing what my legal rights are should she try to say that I have been bullying her. It is her word against mine, but I have a thriving agency and do not want to put my self in a position where I have my character questioned. I have a 27 year history of having a good and impeccable reputation and it worries me that it could be tarnished by one disgruntled employee. I am wondering how to protect myself going forward.
Submitted: 7 months ago.Category: Employment Law
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11/21/2017
Employment Lawyer: legalgems, Lawyer replied 7 months ago
legalgems
legalgems, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 13,372
Experience: Just Answer consultant at Self employed
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Hello! I will be reviewing your question and posting a response momentarily; if you have any follow up questions please respond here. Thanks!

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Employment Lawyer: legalgems, Lawyer replied 7 months ago

I am very sorry to hear this;

Both federal and state law apply to workplace harassment and discrimination; however there is limited application.

It does not apply to nondiscriminatory "workplace bullying"

Please see:

http://www.schac.sc.gov/ed/Pages/ProhibitedPractices.aspx

in order to have a case for discrimination or wrongful termination or hostile work environment, the employee must have been victimized due to his/her status in a protected class, including race, gender, religion etc.
Categories are explained in detail here:
https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/
This explains harassment, which is the basis for a hostile work environment claim:
https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/harassment.cfm
If there is discrimination, the employee may:
1. file an EEOC complaint here:
https://www.eeoc.gov/employees/charge.cfm
2. bring a civil suit for hostile work environment, alleging that the employee was harassed due to their status in a protected class. Damages may include lost wages, pain and suffering, even punitive damages designed to punish the defendant.

That of course does not bar a lawsuit based on allegations, and the plaintiff, as the person bringing the suit, has the burden of proving the forbidden conduct took place by clear and convincing evidence.

So standard ways to protect oneself is to :

1. keep a journal of interactions with all employees involving disciplinary issues

2. have a witness present

3. send a summary email documenting the meetings/phone calls that address these issues, with a brief summary of what occurred and the proposed and accepted outcome.

But if the action is not based on the protected category then it is not an actionable offense.

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Customer reply replied 7 months ago
Thank you, ***** ***** make sure I understand, if the alleged bullying, harassment, aggressiveness is based on the tone of voice being "too aggressive" or the that she thinks I am frustrated with her that does not in and of itself constitute an actionable offense?
Employment Lawyer: legalgems, Lawyer replied 7 months ago

That is correct; unless the employee can prove that the allged bullying, harassment, etc is based on one's position in a protected category.

So for example if an employer has 10 employees and they are all the same gender as the employer except for 1; if it is determined that the employer treats the 9 similarly situated employees in one manner, and treat the 1 protected class member in a different manner, that can be the basis for an actionable complaint - provided that the disparate treatment is due to their position in that protected class (versus say, frustration with below average work product when compared to the other employees).

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Employment Lawyer: legalgems, Lawyer replied 6 months ago

Hello again; just checking in to see how things worked out;

If you have no further questions a positive rating is most appreciated (at no additional cost to you) and allows the site to credit my account for the time spent assisting you!

if you have further questions please don't hesitate to reach out to me here on Just Answerand I will do my best to get you the requested information.
Thanks!

The above information is for educational purposes only. A consultation with a private attorney is recommended so they can apply the law to your specific facts, and suggest the best course of action. An attorney can be located here:
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