The Case of the US versus Sterling

free essayDuring working in an institution, all employees must understand all the human resource policies that guide the human capital development of the institution. Specifically, the policies about what involves misconduct in the workplace such as disrespect towards supervisors should be noted by the employees to ensure that they do not rub their shoulders the wrong way with their superiors. Putting emphasis on such policies ensures that the organization does not tend to punish the employees after such cases, and that the employees do not sue the institution for wrongful termination. The case of the United States versus Monifa J. Sterling in the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces presents a good example of misconduct in the workplace, and how employees feel when they thing they are unfairly treated. Employee’s misconduct, therefore, can have devastating consequences to the employee in question.

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Monifa J. Sterling was court-martialed in 2014 for being in violation of some articles in the military code of conduct. After the decision by the court, Sterling was reduced to the rank of an E-1 and also reduced a bad-conduct discharge from the marines. The charges brought to the court of appeal had occurred separately within one year. In summary, the incidences included failing to appear in her duty place showing disrespect to the supervisor who was appointed to her, and disobeying a direct order of her superior. These instances show great misconduct in the workplace, and, as such, they had devastating consequences to the officer involved. During the case, Sterling turned around the case to be one that involved her being denied the right to participate in her religion of choice. The first act of misconduct performed by Miss Sterling was committed after she was appointed to section 6 of the 8th Communications Battalion. Her immediate supervisor was Staff, Sergeant Alexander. Marine Lance Corporal Sterling was tasked with assisting marines with their common access cards. At that time, she shared a desk with a junior marine. Sterling was engaged in relationship of contentious nature with superiors for various reasons including failing to contribute positively to her unit, not working without full supervision, lacking the professional growth, maturity, discipline, and leadership in conducting her tasks. Moreover, most time was spent in dealing with her personal issues. The corporal was charged with performance misconduct in the workplace for these issues. It was in May 2013, after being in counseling for not managing to get a promotion. At that time, she had problems with Sergeant Alexander for failing to give back a completed Marine Institute course where she printed three different copies of the phrase: “no weapon formed against me shall prosper.” The captain asked her to delete it she set at the same desk with junior Marine. She did not remove them, and her supervisor did it herself. Later in the year, another of her superiors, senior sergeant Morris, noted that she did not wear the required uniform, and he commanded that she wore it as dictated by the Commandant of the Marine Corps. However, the corporal did not heed to this order citing a chit from the medical staff that exempted her from wearing her uniform. Upon confirmation from the medical staff, the senior sergeant found out that she could wear her uniform and gave his order again, and she again refused. Senior sergeant Morris took the issue to first sergeant Robinson, who repeated the request for the third time, and she once again refused to heed the order.

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The worst of her offenses was failing to show up on her designated duty area. On September 12, 2013, first sergeant Robinson ordered Sterling to report to a post in Sunday from 4 pm to around 7:30 pm to help issue vehicle passes to the families of the marines who were returning from deployment. However, she refused the order by being on medication. She was taken to the major Flatley. The major tried to cope with the problem but Sterling said that she would not attend and would sleep instead. From the above instances, it is evident that the case is the one of misconduct in the workplace. Sterling disobeyed direct orders from her superiors, failed to show up in her designated duty area, and was also disrespectful to her seniors.

The decision made by the US Court of Appeal was to reduce the rank of the corporal to the rank of an E-1 as well as giving her a bad conduct discharge from marines. The court decided this case in the best way it should have been decided. The main reason was that Sterling’s case was the one of misconduct in the workplace. The first charge leveled against her was disobeying a direct order from her direct supervisor. This involved the Bible verse that corporal Sterling had put in three areas surrounding her workplace. During the whole case, Sterling was not charged with any offense dealing with her placing the Bible verse in her area of work. It is evident from the transcript of the case that before placing the Bible verse, Sterling has issues with her supervisors. The latter had indicated that they had a contentious relationship with her: from spending too much time dealing with her personal issues to having been constantly supervised while at work. Therefore, posting the signs: “no weapons formed against me shall prosper” is a connection to the prior contention with her superiors. According to the Department’s of Defense or the Secretary’s of the Navy instruction, it is required that if such an issue is religious, then the petitioner is required to seek any religious accommodation (Rehkopf, 2015). Therefore, Sterling was required to ask for religious accommodation after her supervisor ordered her to remove the signs. Sterling justification for her disobedience of a direct order is based on religious beliefs. What this implies is that anyone can be legally above the law as long as they can put their claim under a religious sanction. Under the history of the RFRA, the body is recognized as the military one as it has a unique nature, especially due to the discipline required from all its members. The case of Sterling appears in a military’s line of work since it involves a place where active marines frequented. Sterling put the signs in a bold font that everyone walking past would read and then defied the order to remove these signs. In this context, Sterling’s denying to remove the signs is an act of defiance as it can be seen in the case of Garcetti v. Ceballos. In this case, it was concluded that such government entity as the military has a greater task to limit the speech whenever it is acting as an employer (Kanovitz, 2012). However, the care must be taken when imposing these restrictions, and they should be such that they only target any speech having the potential of affecting the ways certain organization works. Marines that read the signs that Sterling had put up would be affected because the signs were disruptive in the workplace. The claim that her religious beliefs were ‘under attack’ shifts the focus from the key issue, which is misconduct in an area of work. Therefore, this decision made by the court that she had disobeyed her superiors was indeed correct. Therefore, the court made the right decision to reduce her rank as well as give her a bad conduct discharge.

This case has serious legal implications to the area of human capital development in human resources. Human capital refers to acts of knowledge, their habits, traits at home or in the workplace, and also creativity aimed at good performance in the workplace so as to improve the economic value of the institution. Human capital development, therefore, refers to any actions meant to improve the habits, traits, and creativity of the workers in the workplace. The petitioner, in this case, tried to cover up her gross misconduct in the workplace by arguing the case on religious grounds. Institutions have to be careful about the policies they make regarding human resources. To ensure clear human capital development, the institutions must ensure that their employees do not engage in matters of insubordination. Despite various restrictions that come up from the case happening in a military workplace, the same issues arise even in a civilian workplace. Policies related to religion, gender, and other thorny issues should be carefully drafted to prevent such issues being used as scapegoats by any employee charged with insubordination or any other form of misconduct. Whenever employers observe any form of insubordination from their employees, they should take all the necessary steps to curb this issue. As observed from the case, Sterling was taken for counseling after having issues due to her promotion; she was taken to the senior supervisors by her direct supervisors whenever any problem occurred. Such a protocol should be followed before the necessary actions such as demotion or even sacking the employee are used. The case gives institutions the defense that they require whenever they faced such an issue of insubordination. The employees face sometimes the habits related to their work such as their creativity and personal traits among other issues. If conducted in the wrong way, they can affect the rest of the colleagues in the workplace. Therefore, legally speaking, this case presents the human resource of an institution with the platform for developing policies that focus on all aspects affecting the employees. It may be described as thorny in terms of the religion or gender.

In conclusion, misconduct in the workplace is a common occurrence in different institutions. The institutions have to develop human resource policies that guide the decision process in case of such occurrences. One of the most sensitive issues in the workplace is any issue related to religion. Religion can become an issue if the employees choose it to be the scapegoat to cover their misconduct. The case of the US versus Sterling presents the issue of using religion as a scapegoat for misconduct. In this case, Sterling used her religion to cover up the fact that she was not performing as required in her place of work. Additionally, she was disrespectful to her superiors. The court was justified to decide the case against Sterling since her issues presented great misconduct. This case has some legal implications in human capital development. As in many other cases related to religion and misconduct, this case might be used in the decision-making process. Additionally, different institutions can use it to define its policies related to misconduct and religion. Therefore, this case is very crucial in human capital development.

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