BPHR’s Director Lisa Salcido, SPHR, SHRM-SCP provides answers to your pressing HR questions.
Actionable answers to your pressing HR problems
Question: We have an employee who is falling asleep at work and has become very forgetful. His performance was always above average so we are concerned for his well-being. How do we approach a discussion about his health?
Answer: While your concern is genuine and it might be tempting to address his health, you must be careful not to ask unlawful medical questions. Your discussion must focus on the performance issues he is demonstrating and his ability to continue working, potentially with an accommodation.
Evaluate safety consequences first and determine if this employee’s behavior poses any risk to himself or others, particularly with physical type work. For a desk job where you can rule out an immediate threat of harm, you’ll need to speak with the employee about your recent observations.
There are many reasons why an employee may exhibit sudden sleepiness or forgetfulness. Stress, new medication, depression or an onset of a serious cognitive impairment. Without knowing the reason, you should plan your discussion as you would with any other employee who is not meeting job expectations.
Document work-related conduct such as errors made, missed deadlines, confusing conversations and excessive fatigue. Present your concerns to the employee without eliciting any information related to a disability. For example, it would be acceptable to ask if he is feeling OK and can continue to perform his job. Avoid asking, “Are you taking a sedative to treat insomnia?”
Your employee may tell you that he is having difficulty working because of a health condition. Any time an employee makes you aware of a medical or psychological disability, you have an obligation to engage in an interactive accommodation process. This process is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to determine if you can provide a reasonable accommodation. From your conversation with the employee, you may also learn information that triggers your responsibilities under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Suspicions of medical issues with employees are difficult to navigate so always initiate a conversation around the specific performance issues and be prepared to comply with the ADA, FMLA, and any applicable state laws.
Take a More Balanced Approach to HR with BPHR
When sensitive employee issues arise, it’s critical to have a place to turn with questions and concerns. That’s exactly what BPHR provides. An HR Generalist will fully integrate within your organization like a member of your team.
Want to learn more? Have a question for Lisa? Email her directly.