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No Discrimination Here: Employee Fired for Sending Disrespectful Emails

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD | Last updated on

Margarita Zayas was an ultrasound technician employed at Rockford Memorial Hospital from November 1999 to April 2011. Though she received positive work evaluations as recently as 2008 and 2009, she was terminated because of repeatedly sending disrespectful emails to her direct supervisor Larry Griesman.

Over the course of one year, Zayas sent a series of insubordinate emails to Griesman, despite several meetings and warnings. Even after Zayas received a formal written warning, she persisted in sending emails that "were perceived as negative, unprofessional and disrespectful towards her managers and peers." Because she did not heed her employer's warnings, she was terminated in April 2011, at the age of fifty-five, the oldest ultrasound tech at Rockford Memorial Hospital.

Discrimination Claims

Zayas initiated a federal action against the hospital alleging discrimination on the basis of age, national origin and hostile work environment, reports Business Insurance. The district court granted the Hospital's motion for summary judgment on all three counts, and the Third Circuit affirmed.

The court noted that Zayas did not provide sufficient evidence to prove any of her claims, either directly, or indirectly. The Third Circuit quoted the district court and stated that "although Zayas' co-workers did not like her, it was likely the result of 'workplace pettiness,' not her Puerto Rican origin."

Lessons Learned

The lesson here goes both ways: employers should definitely keep a paper trail of work place violations or performance reviews, and should issue successive warnings before terminating an employee. By creating a paper trail, the employers are protecting themselves from discrimination suits. On the other hand, employees should heed the advice of their managers -- especially when given warnings. They can't later paint a picture of discrimination after the fact, when there was none there to begin with.

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