Insubordinate staffing-defemation

I am a male supervisor of a team of 5 female employees. On Thursday, I was sitting in the cubicle of a co-worker and overheard in the next cubicle two junior members of my team, Stacey and Jaime and another junior staff, Angela, talking about the person who they report to Jessica (who then reports to me). The comments were extremely offensive and inappropriate saying-- Jessica is such a fat cunt. I cant believe the way she dresses. I stood up and looked at the three of them and said, I suggest you get back to work instantly Stacey went back to her desk. Jaime looked at me right in the eyes and laughed, I then looked over to Angela and she rolled her eyes at me. I again repeated myself, Stacey I know you have plenty of work to do and Angela Im sure you do as well, you need to get back to work. Now the two were smirking and unfortunately I did loose my cool and said You better wipe that smirk off your f**king face and get back to work. This they responded to. Jessica then came by my desk and told me she heard what they were saying and it wasnt the first time. I emailed Jaime and Angela that I wanted to have Jessica and myself and each of them meet separately at 5:45. I then called my supervisor who agreed that this is a huge problem and that we should meet to discuss the seriousness of their insubordination and in Jaimes case the work she is not doing. Meetings went fine. I was off on Friday, yesterday I discussed further with my supervisor and her supervisor I told them that I did loose my cool and the language I used, they agreed that wasnt the best thing but it happens and the two jr. staff were a much bigger problem then an adult using the f-word. Later in the day I was told that Jaime and Angela had gone to speak to HR about me and told them I used the f-word every other word, which is not true. Before knowing this I had set up a meeting with Jessica and Jaime to meet again today to see what we can to improve the team situation. That was supposed to be at 11am. 15 minutes prior to the meeting I receive a message from HR not have the meeting without speaking to someone there first. Can I be in trouble? Did I do something that could cause legal action to be taken against me?

1 answer  |  asked Jun 21, 2005 10:43 AM [EST]  |  applies to New York

Answers (1)

David M. Lira
He Used a Bad Word

Is there some kind of law prohibiting the use of obscenities in the workplace? No.

Does the use of obscenities by a supervisor towards subordinates create a liability problem for the employer? That is, can an employer successfully be sued because a supervisor uses obscenities in front of subordinates? Without a lot more, probably not.

Can a supervisor be fired for using an obscenity? Sure. Particularly if the job is in the private sector, the supervisor would be an employee at will, who can be fired at any time, for any reason, or no reason at all.

Can the supervisor be denied unemployment compensation because the supervisor was fired for using an obscenity? Unless there is something significantly more, probably not. An employee can be denied UC if the employee is terminated for cause. Use of an obscenity once or twice in a work place would probably not rise to the level of cause.

posted by David M. Lira  |  Jun 22, 2005 08:55 AM [EST]

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