An employee of 5 months just left my office in tears. She apparently suffers from anxiety (which she has openly discussed with her supervisor but this is the first I'm hearing of it). This bout of anxiety was triggered by a three month review yesterday (yes, two months late) in which she was told that her work was of concern and that she it needed to improve or her employment was in jeopardy. They will revisit in one month.

So many issues, here, but the one of primary concern for me is the mental health issue. She mentioned anxiety and depression several times in the meeting, and how it was interefering with her ability to work. I suggested that she go home for the day since she was visibly upset and unable to work, but I need to know what to tell her when she calls or comes in tomorrow. She is not eligible for FMLA leave, or any paid leave other than sick/personal time, because of her short tenure, so I can't ask for medical certification of anything. I should probably treat this like a potential ADA situation, correct? I will speak with her supervisor and aim for a discussion with all to outline/clarify her work expectations, but I don't want to force this if the woman can't meet because she is in tears. I've asked her to think about what she needs from us, but I don't feel like I can advise her to stay out of work, this is something she needs to consult her doctors about. She has an appointment with a therapist in a couple of days, and folks to speak with in the interim, but I'm uncertain as to my role here when she is so clearly in distress. Any advice appreciated.


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  • Here's my take on it. Depression and anxiety are undoubtedly serious things, but a key provision of the ADA is that if someone does suffer from a disability, employers must only provide [I]reasonable accommodation.[/I] Providing feedback and going through your procedures for performance management is an essential function of having a job at your company. As long as an employee is receiving appropriate treatment from their supervisor, I honestly wouldn't worry about walking on eggshells.

    In my personal opinion, the best thing you can do in situations like this is to provide extremely clear expectations for the employee. Let them know what it is you need in terms of behavior, attendance, and performance, and follow your precedents for dealing with such.

    Now, if a physician determines she cannot be at work, you'll then need to reconsider the whole thing, and decide as a company whether keeping this person on board is a reasonable accommodation, or if you need to have the position filled.

    Hope that helps!
  • Coffee is correct. The employee has to meet the essential functions of the job, and as long as she is getting feedback about requirements she has to meet them. On the other hand, if there is some way you can (reasonably) accomodate her, then you should do so. It appears to me that you started the interactive process when you asked what she wanted from you. It could be something simple like more written procedures, or making sure her breaks are on time. You don't have to re-write her job description though. See what she needs, and if it isn't too difficult, make it happen. Either way she needs to understand your expectations and what will happen if she can't meet them.

    Good luck!
  • Thanks Nae and Coffee, that is helpful. She has already sent us an email with her list of what would help, so I can move ahead with the process.
  • One follow up question. If the employee requests a reduction in hours as an accommodation, we are willing to do this in the short term. My manager asks what our obligation is to restore those reduced hours at some later date, and what we should tell her now about this matter.

    Is the ADA clear on this? Left to my own devices I would establish the hour reduction up front and identify a check-in point. If the EE feels ready to resume the original schedule when we check in, I think we have to/want to do that. If she is still unable to go back to the original schedule, and the supervisor feels the need to establish a long term solution for the work that has gone undone or been temporarily reassigned, (which probably means hiring someone part time), we should go with that and let her know that there is (at that point) not an option to increase her hours.