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Need To Make Cuts To Your Team? What Steps Can Lower Your Risk?

By Kirstin Heffner, The McCalmon Group, Inc.

No one believes management is easy, especially when it comes to making cuts. It is especially true when you are a new manager. Don't let your success be foiled even before you get started.

Here is an example of a scenario that continues to pop up in Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) cases:

Susan has worked as a lab technician for a large health care employer for more that seven years. Susan's long-time boss allowed her to work shorter shifts and take more breaks than other workers to accommodate her cerebral palsy. The accommodations provided a win-win situation for both parties over the years.

After seven years, Susan's boss was transferred to a new department and, Lisa, his replacement, has no information regarding Susan's disability or reasonable accommodation.

Her first day on the job, Lisa is asked to streamline labor costs in her new department. Lisa decides to terminate Susan and allow another employee to take Susan's duties. Lisa fails to talk to Susan about her job duties or why her shifts were modified. Lisa fails to talk to anyone else on the matter at corporate headquarters or to ask if any of them remember the reasons for Susan's modified schedule.

The result is a lawsuit for disability discrimination and retaliation.

Here are some things to consider before making a termination:

  • Get to know each employee. Opening lines of communication early can help avoid problems later.
  • Understand each employee's job duties and how they are performing them. Review the written job descriptions. What are their scheduling circumstances? Do they have accommodations in place?
  • Understand disability discrimination laws including the definition of disability and what constitutes a request for accommodation. Many managers do not realize that a request does not have to be in writing or any other particular form.
  • Do not make employment decisions without all of the facts and the support of those above you. Seek advice before you make changes that will adversely affect employees' hours, pay and other benefits.
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