Firing a Supervisor for Her Workplace Threat Was Not Retaliatory

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These days, everyone has good reason to be leery of threats in the workplace, and the courts are generally supportive of employers who take those threats seriously.  A recent Tenth Circuit decision is a good example.  In Gaff v. St. Mary's Regional Med. Center,[1]the employer fired a supervisor because of her violent reaction to an employee's "joke."  The joke was in poor taste:  the employee said that the supervisor's husband was leaving her for another woman.  The same employee had previously told the supervisor, "All you need is a good f[---]."  But the supervisor's response to the "joke" this day was to say that she owned a gun, knew how to use it, and that the employee's comment was "the kind of joke that can get someone shot."  The Court ruled that - with just these two comments and other innocuous conversations - the supervisor could not have had a reasonable belief that the employee was harassing her.  The Court also found that the only evidence in the case showed the supervisor's threat was the real and only reason for the discharge decision. 

[1]Gaff v. St. Mary's Regional Med. Center, No. 12-6064 (10th Cir. December 19, 2012),