Another update from the Jungle….
Doug is getting close to retirement age after a long, not very distinguished, career. He’s still the consummate professional but it’s obvious that all is not well with him. He is out sick at least one day a week and he doesn’t do much work on the days he is in the office.
Doug’s problems are becoming a headache for Suzy, the HR manager. Suzy likes Doug; he’s always polite and respectful which is not true of his pushy boss. The pushy boss has ordered her to find a reason to fire Doug. Suzy privately thinks the pushy boss wants to make his budget look better by dumping Doug for a less experienced and lower salaried employee.
Suzy begins discrete inquiries of Doug’s behavior and job performance. His friends tell Suzy that Doug suffers from anxiety
attacks and depression. Doug’s anxiety attacks worsened when he was moved into an office on the 15th floor with a wall of windows. Doug has a fear of heights.
Doug’s also having trouble remembering things. Yesterday, Suzy overheard a junior team member
talking to Doug about a client problem. When Doug said the problem sounded familiar, his junior replied, “It ought to; it’s your client”.
Today Suzy is meeting with Doug’s boss. She suggests that Doug should be moved to an interior office but the boss says no; senior people like Doug must have a window office. Next Suzy asks for examples of Doug’s work that show he can’t do his basic job description. The boss has none. In fact, Suzy already knows the boss gave Doug a tepid, but positive, performance review.
What should Suzy do next?
- She can tell the pushy boss that he’s a dingbat for trying to fire an older worker who is obviously still competent and who has not received a negative performance review.
- She can read up on the definition of “disability” in the Americans with Disabilities Act in case Doug decides to ask for an accommodation.
- She can verify that the company has employment practices liability insurance because her gut instinct is that Doug’s boss is about to demonstrate the need for such coverage.
In the actual case, the older worker eventually took early retirement based on health reasons and faded away without raising any of the legal issues that were available to him. The pushy boss was promoted which allowed him to be pushy to a greater number of people simultaneously.
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