Workplace Q&A: Part 11

Q: I just got a final written warning. What should I do?

“I was just given a final written warning. I was told that my manager received customer complaints about my service. What should I do?”

A: Here are the steps you should take.

You won’t be able to solve the problem unless you know exactly what the problem is. First, you should ask for copies of the customer complaints if you don’t already have them. You will then need to go over each complaint, identifying the precise source of each customer concern and formulating a plan to address that concern. You should advise your manager of any customer concerns that are beyond your control.

Make sure you know how much time you have to remedy each problem that you’ve identified. If the warning doesn’t provide a timetable, then work with your manager to set a deadline for each problem that needs to be resolved. During this time period, you should have regular, brief check-ins with your manager – either orally or in writing – to make sure you are on the right track.

Q: Can my manager favor an attractive female co-worker?

“I’m part of a five-person team. We all work for one manager. The manager overtly favors one team member – a young, attractive woman. From the start, he gave her the best projects with the most learning opportunities and the highest visibility. I just found out that her annual bonus was more than double that of any other team member. Can my manager do this?”

A: No.

Under the federal government’s sexual harassment guidelines, a manager cannot disadvantage other team members in order to favor a more attractive female employee. The problem is that your manager will claim that his favorite employee is in fact more competent and deserves the additional compensation. After all, he’ll claim, she got the better assignments.

I suggest that you approach your manager about establishing more transparency in work assignments. If you can’t get your manager to divide the work fairly, you may have to ask someone higher up to oversee project assignments. Once the work is assigned in a more equitable and transparent manner, it will be easier to show that the disparity in bonuses is unfair.


Q: Can my manager make me see the Employee Assistance Program counselor?

“Three months ago, my sister died after a long and painful illness. Just recently, my father died suddenly from a heart attack. When my manager found out, he told me that I had to go see the Employee Assistance Program counselor. Can he make me do this?”

A: No.

Employment Assistance Program (EAP) counseling is voluntary. It is a resource to help employees, but seeing an EAP counselor cannot be a condition of keeping your job.

Perhaps your manager has noticed some problems with your job performance and is concerned that further deterioration may put your job at risk. You should definitely have a conversation with him to make sure he doesn’t perceive that you have any performance issues. If he does, you should come up with a solution that is independent of EAP counseling.

Perhaps your manager cannot believe that anyone who has suffered two major losses in such a short time could still be able to perform well on the job. Again, it would entirely appropriate to have a conversation with your manger to assure him that, while times are difficult, you’re still able and willing to do your work.

Copyright © 2013–2014 Johanna Harris

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. This post contains numerous questions describing common recurring problems in the workplace. The circumstances described in these questions, including the names of characters and business firms, are fictitious.

About the Author: Johanna Harris has been a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor and in-house labor counsel for two multinational corporations. She is currently the CEO of Hire Fire and Retire LLC. Her new book, USE PROTECTION: An Employee’s Guide to Advancement in the Workplace (i Book, Kindle, Amazon Paperback), is intended to help you learn enough about labor law and personnel practices so that you don’t get derailed from the career track you should be on.


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