Kristin Klein Wheaton, a partner in Goldberg Segalla’s Employment and Labor practice, spoke with Law360 regarding a recent case in which an employee was awarded $450,000 following their termination. The employee in question informed the employer of their disability status, anxiety, and requested that the employer not hold a birthday party on their behalf. However, the employer did host the birthday party, impacting the employee adversely and leading to further complications, including the employee’s termination.
Kristin emphasized that proper diversity training is a key step in preventing situations such as these. She also emphasized that she felt it was the employer’s response following the botched birthday party which exacerbated the harm done.
“Certainly someone should have had, I think, the emotional intelligence to ask him, ‘You look very uncomfortable. Can you explain why?’” Kristin said, in what could have been a response from managers to the employee.
Additionally, she explained how employers taking steps to deescalate and separate can be a smart move, such as dismissing someone from work for the day with their compensation intact. “If someone in the fit of a moment is having an argument or overreacting or acting in a way you don’t think is appropriate, sending someone home for the day with pay to let them cool off and think about their actions is a completely reasonable approach. And it eradicates the immediate perceived risk to the workplace as well,” Kristin concluded.
Kristin Klein Wheaton counsels and defends the interests of clients facing employment and labor issues, civil rights and discrimination claims, and complex commercial disputes. A skilled problem solver with over 20 years of legal experience in both the private and public sectors, Kristin’s wide-ranging practice includes labor and employee relations, contract negotiations, conducting internal investigations, and assisting clients with Human Resources and employment counseling, as well as the creation and maintenance of compliance policies and strategies for state and federal laws. These clients include municipal bodies, such as towns, villages, counties, law enforcement bodies, and public entities; long-term care facilities, colleges and universities, and nonprofits; and the full gamut of private sector employers, in fields from health care and hospitality to logistics and manufacturing.