Americans with Disabilities Act

3 HR Practices to Consider on Veteran’s Day

Another update from the Jungle…..

This Saturday, November 11th, we will celebrate Veteran’s Day. This national holiday originated after World War I to commemorate the war which officially ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Since then, the holiday has expanded to commemorate all military service personnel in our country’s history.

In recent years, the solemnity of the occasion has been obscured by a tendency to label every military person as a “hero.” But a “hero” is an idealization. So labeling all military personnel as “heroes” can make it more difficult for these individuals to admit they need help with mental health issues arising from their days in the service.

For almost two decades, our all-volunteer military has cycled repeatedly through war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as many other parts of the world. The length of the wars means that they have repeatedly switched between combat and peace time deployments. This cycle has greatly increased mental health strains on active duty individuals, veterans and their families. Those issues don’t go away when an individual leaves the military for civilian life.

Employers who hire veterans can ease the transition with these 3 HR practices.

  1. Support mental health programs for employees. Veterans (and other employees) often avoid treatment out of fear that they will be unfairly stigmatized as “crazy.” More employees will seek help if senior management actively supports use of an employee assistance program (EAP) and the mental health benefits covered in most health insurance policies.
  2. Ensure that anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-bullying policies are enforced with the goal of limiting the potential for workplace violence. Employees dealing with mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may be more likely to react inappropriately when facing a perceived threat. (Not all veterans develop PTSD and not all PTSD sufferers are veterans. Domestic violence survivors and residents of high-crime neighborhoods often have PTSD.)
  3. Review how your company handles Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requests for accommodations.  Some employees may function better in a quiet, secluded corner rather than in crowded, noisy cubicles. Other employees may flourish if they can sometimes work remotely. A flexible approach is more likely to ensure your company keeps good employees, including veterans.

This Veteran’s Day, let’s honor our veterans by treating them like the veterans of former wars were treated: men and women who did their duty and then returned to peace-time employment. Help them transition to civilian employment with enlightened practices for handling mental health issues. It will be good for all employees.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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A Dim Bulb Burns Out

Another update from the Jungle…

Meet Tom. worker

Tom has worked tirelessly on a local factory manufacturing line for almost 30 years. He has rarely missed work and his work ethic is unbelievable.

There’s just one catch…

Tom is challenged when it comes to making sense out of everyday tasks. Although his IQ has never been measured, those who know him can tell that he struggles to understand new information. He often sits staring vacantly during his work breaks, unable to participate in any witty conversational banter, so he aimlessly watches the clock count down until his next shift. Tom has worked at the factory since he turned 18 and, through the years, has earned the right become a part of the company family. His supervisor and several co-workers look out for him on a daily basis. They try to protect him by intervening when younger workers try to make fun of him or call him names like “stupid.”

Now that Tom is almost 50, his learning disability has become visibly worse. He is often easily distracted and becomes completely inattentive while working on the line. This ends up compromising his ability to work on dangerous machines. (Especially after the day that he almost lost his finger!) His supervisor now assigns him to the dreary, boring, repetitive jobs on the safer equipment.

Eventually Tom’s supervisor decides to retire. He’d known Tom for the duration of 30 years at the factory and knew that under his watch, Tom would always have a job at the factory. On his last day, the supervisor warns his replacement that Tom needs to be handled with compassion and patience because of his slower disposition. The new supervisor, David, is a rising star at the company and laser-focused on increasing productivity and efficiency. He becomes instantly offended that his managerial skills are being questioned by the retiring “old geezer.” He dismisses the unsolicited suggestion with a disingenuous “Ok. Sure.”

factoryIn the days following, David is overwhelmed and irate with Tom’s slow pace and inability to concentrate on the line, so he begins to routinely shout at and berate Tom during his shift. David pushes Tom to move faster and to stay focused, which creates confusion and high levels of emotional distress for Tom. This erratic behavior becomes so frequent that David decides to notify Gloria, the company’s HR representative. David informs her that Tom needs to be terminated for poor work performance ASAP.

Early the next morning, before Gloria could call Tom into her office, he wandered away from the line and walked over to the field next to the factory’s parking lot. He stood in the rain, gazing up at the sky and proceeded to take off his clothes and lay down on the ground. David sees this and sends an employee to tell Gloria to call 911.

What should Gloria do next?

She should call the paramedics so that Tom can be taken to the hospital for evaluation?
She should tell David to stop bullying his subordinates?
She should review the company’s procedures for dealing with distraught workers?

stigmaIn the actual situation, the paramedics were notified, and they transported the employee to the hospital where he underwent a psychological evaluation. That diagnosis led to the employee being placed on permanent disability. As the stigma attached to mental health recedes, employees should be encouraged to seek assistance rather than suffering in denial.

Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor will expertly create and customize all necessary HR policies that are appropriate for the size and culture of your company. CCRA will then facilitate as a valuable resource to your staff during the policy’s implementation phase.

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Get Rid of Him!

Another update from the Jungle….
image024Doug 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
image025talking 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?

  1. 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.
  2. She can read up on the definition of “disability” in the Americans with Disabilities Act in case Doug decides to ask for an accommodation.
  3. 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.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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A Sick Employee Means a Headache for HR

Another update from the Jungle….

Joe Bob worked for ABC Company for years and always had a poor attendance record. Joe Bob says he has chronic joint pain that makes it painful to stand at his work station. His supervisor often lets him sit in the break room when Joe Bob says he needs a break. Joe Bob often calls in sick but his supervisor has never warned him that he could be fired based on his attendance record.

Tom owns ABC Company and is annoyed that Joe Bob has called in sick yet again just when a big order needs to be filled for a key client. Tom instructs Beth to fill out the paperwork firing Joe Bob. Beth hasn’t done human resources work for very long but she’s worried about Tom’s instructions. She can’t find attendance records for Joe Bob to verify how often he calls in sick.

What are some of the HR issues that Beth has?

1. Without accurate attendance records, there’s no way to justify firing Joe Bob for poor attendance.
2. There is no record that Joe Bob was warned about his attendance, so there is no progressive discipline to justify firing Joe Bob.
3. Joe Bob has been treated as “disabled” by his supervisor and that means the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may apply and he may be entitled to an accommodation as a “disabled” employee.

If this scenario sounds familiar to you, it may be time to seek help. Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can work with your existing HR staff to create a framework to avoid some of the above pitfalls.

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