Voices: In The Trenches RSS
In the Trenches: Is hiring a deaf machinist a sound decision?
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme contemplates the ramifications of hiring a candidate with disabilities.
Linda Lathes was looking to fill an apprentice machinist opening at Acme. One application in particular looked promising. The applicant, Sid Sines, had completed a trade school program and appeared to have a solid manufacturing background. When Linda brought him in to interview, though, she discovered Sid was deaf. He had an ASL interpreter with him for the interview but said that for the most part, he gets by on his own with no problem; he had nominal hearing in one ear and he was excellent at lip reading.
Sid certainly was qualified on paper, and he had a strong recommendation from the trade school, but Linda balked at having a deaf employee working in the machine shop. The shop noise made communication difficult enough, and she was sure it was a safety hazard if employees couldn’t hear each other. Instead of rejecting him out of hand, Linda consulted with Dr. Opine, Acme’s occupational physician. “There’s no way this guy could work as a machinist without being constantly accommodated,” Dr. Opine said. With this, Linda was fairly sure Acme could legally refuse to hire him.
But to assuage her own uneasiness, she called the local hiring hall of the machinists union for an opinion as to whether a deaf person could safely do the job. Steve Steward, the president of the local, offered a gruff “heck no” and said the union had “plenty of qualified, able-bodied guys from our training program; we’ll send one over.” Finally, Linda called her cousin, Yolanda Yells, to get her thoughts, remembering that Yolanda had a deaf boyfriend with whom she’d recently broken up. Yolanda said in no uncertain terms that her ex was a good-for-nothing jerk, and, if Sid was anything like her ex, she’d steer clear of him.
Linda didn’t want to chance it; she politely told Sid that while he had strong qualifications, she couldn’t compromise safety. Instead, she hired her second choice, Harry Hears. It only took a few months, though, before Linda could say, in no uncertain terms, that Harry was a good-for-nothing jerk whom she should have steered clear of. Yet Acme had already sunk a good deal of money into training him, so she was stuck with him. While lamenting her fate one day, she got an irate call from Ken Stickler, Acme’s lawyer. “I‘ve got an ADA lawsuit sitting on my desk,” Ken said. “And I’m not happy about it.”
How could this situation have been prevented? Let us know what you think.
A labor and employment analyst’s response:
I don’t know whether Sid would have been able to do the machinist job safely. Neither did Linda or Dr. Opine or Steve, or certainly not Yolanda. Linda and the others made an error in judgment that’s all too common: she made unfounded assumptions about an individual’s ability to perform the job based on stereotypes about his disability.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an employer is required to make an “individualized inquiry” into whether a job applicant is able to perform the job, either with or without accommodation. Instead of posing the question directly to Sid, Linda sought out advice from third parties, who offered their opinions without personal knowledge of Sid, the extent of his impairment, and the specifics of the job he had applied for. The key issue isn’t whether “a deaf person” could work as a machinist; it’s whether Sid could perform the specific machinist position that Acme was looking to fill.
Sid seemed to have fared well in trade school, so his impairment might not have impacted his ability to perform the job at Acme. Linda should have engaged in “the interactive process” with Sid to see what accommodations, if any, would be necessary for him to do the job safely. Sid might have been able to suggest some very simple modifications or assistive devices that would enable him to safely work in the machine shop. If the proposed accommodations would have posed an undue hardship to Acme, the company would not be obliged to provide them. But, at minimum, it had to seriously consider them.
Linda said the machine shop was so noisy that it was already difficult for employees to communicate with each other, so Sid’s impairment would create an even greater hazard. But the fact that the machine shop was noisy probably meant employees already communicated with each other quite frequently through nonverbal means. Does the job description identify the ability to hear as an essential function of the machinist position? These are the kinds of factual inquiries a court of law would make in evaluating whether an employer fairly considered a disabled individual’s qualifications to perform the job sought.
Why didn’t Dr. Opine examine Sid before rendering an opinion as to his qualifications? Was the physician suggesting that Sid posed a direct threat to himself or his coworkers and that the threat could not be eliminated by providing an accommodation? If so, Acme bore the burden of showing that Sid would have posed such a threat. If not, then Dr. Opine’s conclusion that Sid would have to be “constantly accommodated” didn’t mean Acme was in the clear. Opine did not disqualify Sid; merely requiring an accommodation doesn’t rule out a candidate.
The fault does not lie solely with Linda, of course. Acme’s human resources office, one presumes, would have known how to evaluate Sid’s qualifications without running afoul of the law. Yet Acme let Linda loose without explaining the legal nuances of hiring. The company’s negligence in this respect could well prove costly.
Lisa Milam-Perez, J.D., Labor and Employment Analyst
Wolters Kluwer Law and Business, (773) 866-3908, firstname.lastname@example.org
It seems that Linda actually ignored the only truly informed opinion, that of the trade school. They deal with machinists, and understand what is needed to be a good one. They gave Sid a good recommendation. The hall steward and her cousin both had their own agendas, with no useful information to share at all concerning Sid. Dr. Opine fell down on the job by not examining both Sid and the job to determine if Sid could do the job safely. Then again, it might just be that Linda did not understand what the good doctor was saying, as he did not really render an opinion; just a statement that "accomodation would be needed". The question legally is whether a person can do a job with "reasonable" accomodation.
As for the noisy shop, I agree that this might be a benefit for Sid, since everyone else would be working on a more or less level playing field as him. Also, machinists work heavily with written instructions or drawings; bad hearing does not affect such communication methods. I don't know whether Linda was HR or a machine shop supervisor, but both HR and the mchine shop supervisor, at the least, should have been involved with this hire. At this point, all Acme can do is "pay the man".
In the Trenches: Is hiring a deaf machinist a sound decision?
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme contemplates the ramifications of hiring a candidate with disabilities.
In the Trenches: Whistleblower or disgruntled employee?
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme learns not to drag its heels on dealing with poor performers.
In the Trenches: A not so merry mixer
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme's holiday party jeopardizes relationships with its customers.
Paying for safety
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme wonders if workers should get dressed and undressed while they're on the clock.
Social media warfare
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme discovers that Twitter is anything but frivolous.
Show me your papers
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme deals with labor unrest amongst undocumented workers.
Harassment at home
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme wonders how to address harassment when it takes place during non-work hours.
Does off-the-clock work count as overtime?
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme wonders if a supervisor's sleep warrants overtime.
Are hourly engineers profitable?
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme considers turning its engineering department into a non-salaried division.
No good deed goes unpunished
In this edition of In the Trenches, a part-time do-gooder gets the axe when he rats out a software pirate.
Coworkers with benefits
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme learns some of the finer points of workplace romance.
Unauthorized modifications to material handling equipment can be trouble
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme learns that unsafe production processes prove expensive.
Who's responsible for employee attendance?
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme tries to equate plant production with worker attendance.
Gender ambiguity and cultural norms clash in the industrial workplace
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme's first transsexual truck driver gets fired for doing what comes naturally.
Acme employee's injury claim leads to tricky circumstances
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme fires an employee for not following injury-claim procedures.
Handling an employee who suffers from seasonal affective disorder
In this edition of In the Trenches, the depressing story of Acme and the scheduling function.
Is medical marijuana OK in the workplace?
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme considers an employee with a prescription for a pharmaceutical.
Executive decisions have consequences
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme investigates what happens when Eros joined the ranks on Mahogany Row.
Is a drunk-driving employee protected under ADA?
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme learns what happens when an employee overindulges.
Privacy in the Internet age
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme confronts the proper role of online privacy in the workplace.
Part time with full-time pay
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme learns the dangers of mixing business with religion.
On the road again
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme learns that worker's comp can be a real pain in the back.
When Johnny comes marching home
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme tries to outmaneuver the Army.
A depressing story
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme ends up in an altercation when a worker is too ill to personally notify her absence.
Keep an eye on the road
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme's driver disqualification criteria collide with the EEOC.
The case of the missing office manager
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme learns the downside of expecting people to be on the job.
What's it to ya?
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme's harassment policy comes front and center.
In the Trenches: Could Acme's email gaffe have been avoided?
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme learns something about the finer points of e-mail expertise.
In the Trenches: Interpersonal tension mounts at Acme
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme learns how to handle interpersonal tension.
In the Trenches: Acme learns that employees react differently to praise
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme learns that different personalities have different responses to success.
In the Trenches: Acme reacts to complaints on a social network
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme reacts to barstool complaints on a social network.
In the Trenches: Trouble brews when supervisor can't cope
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme learns what happens when a supervisor can't cope.
In the Trenches: Acme employee doesn't accept reality
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme learns that some people can't or won't accept reality.
In the Trenches: Lack of consistent behavior standards causes trouble for Acme
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme copes with different behavior patterns separated by only a door.
In the Trenches: Acme learns about handling workers who cross the picket line
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme learns about handling workers who cross the picket line. Remember, only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Saving money with a modified pension plan backfires on Acme
In this edition of "In the Trenches," Acme attempts to save money by modifying its pension plan. Remember, only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Government pay differential mishandled by Acme
In this edition of "In the Trenches," Acme learns how to handle the government's pay differential.
In the Trenches: Acme's Wall Street endeavors lead to trouble
In this edition of "In the Trenches," Acme finds that dabbling in Wall Street can pay dividends.
In the Trenches: Post-employment restrictions at Acme are dubious
In this edition of "In the Trenches," Acme deals with an employee who values peace of mind over money. Remember, only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Acme employees respond to timecard fraud accusations
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme employees respond to accusations of submitting fraudulent timecards. Remember, only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Acme treats married couple poorly
In this installment of "In the Trenches," Acme employees treat a married couple poorly. Remember, only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Acme is asking for an elevator disaster
In this edition of "In the Trenches," Acme has trouble bearing the ups and downs of state regulations. Remember, only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Acme learns about the emotional cost of overtime
Acme learns a lesson about forced labor, its on-call policies and the emotional cost of overtime. Remember, only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Acme's employee fraternization problem rooted in poor leadership
In this case, Acme learns about dancing on employees’ mating habits. Remember, only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Acme shirks its obligation to disabled employee
In this installment, Acme learns the value of having two good hands. Remember, only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Acme employee gets in trouble by 'going green' while making extra greenbacks on the side
In this installment, an Acme employee learns the difference between minimizing trash and maximizing cash. Remember, only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
Trenches: Acme's ill-fated health improvement attempts intrude in employees' private lives
In this installment, Acme tries to improve employee health and cut its costs at the same time. Remember, only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Language barrier makes communication impossible for Acme
Acme confronts a severe case of almost impossible communication. Remember, only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Overwork and lack of clear sick day plans brews trouble for Acme
In this installment, Acme finds that its doctors can’t patch up a bad staffing situation. Only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Acme's lack of core values leads to trouble for one good samaritan
Acme demonstrates its animosity for someone who was only trying to help. Only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In The Trenches: Leveraged buyout payoff teaches Acme a harsh lesson
In this latest installment, Acme learns a lesson about its strategy for paying off a leveraged buyout. Only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Allergic crusader campaigns until fired
An Acme employee with a severe allergy to perfumes and other artificial fragrances repeatedley campaigns his cause to HR, until he's finally fired. Find out the full story and remember, only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Sparks fly after corporate buyout
A buyout of a struggling company leads to organization-wide training meetings. These meetings result in some heated debate, and when two black employees are punished for their angry participation, and a white worker is not, a lawsuit is filed.
In the Trenches: Whistleblower fired after complaint about dropping standards
Acme reorganizes to cut costs, and ends up alienating a worthy environmental director when it cuts corners on important evironmental standards. The director complains, and is fired. Only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Acme discovers a case of faked disability they should have seen coming
An Acme employee claims disability leave for an injury that doesn't exist, after her requested vacation time is denied. Why did she do it? To marry a coworker. Find out the details in this month's In the Trenches and remember, only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Good samaritan out of an Acme job for "causing a ruckus"
An Acme worker, a former military man, leaves company property to aid a woman being mugged. His next pay check has a termination notice. What happened and how could it have been avoided?
In the Trenches: Behavior complaints lead to retaliation?
A former school teacher turned plant inspector is offended by some sophomoric behavior among her co-workers. Her complaints get one co-worker fired, but also lead to her being disliked by coworkers. She quits and files a retaliation, constructive discharge and sexual harassment suit against Acme. How could this have been avoided?
In the Trenches: Acme fires whistleblower instead of fixing problem
An acme employee alerts upper management of a pricing scheme within the company that cost clients millions annually. Instead of investigating the accused, Acme demoted and eventually fired the accuser.
In the Trenches: Acme's way of dealing with terrorism hoax leaves much to be desired
Acme accuses and eventually fires an employee for engineering a terrorist hoax against the company based on scant evidence. The employee sues. Read about the details and remember, only the names are changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Gender discrimination at Acme?
A female Acme maintenance technician has no choice but to dress in the men's locker room and then is passed over for a promtion despite her seniority. She quits and files a discrimination suit. Read the details in our monthly In the Trenches (remember, only the names are changed to protect the innocent).
In The Trenches: High-performing Acme employee fired for poor eyesight
After numerous attempts to land a job at Acme and eye surgery, a high-performing Acme employee is hired and then fired for poor eyesight. Find out the details in our monthly In the Trenches, where only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Trouble brews over unauthorized access to confidential files
An Acme employee is fired for cause after snooping around some personal files of a manager and is denied severance benefits. She brings a civil lawsuit (Only the names are changed to protect the innocent).
In the Trenches: Small misunderstanding over medical leave causes big, big problems
When an Acme employee doesn't show up and doesn't call in, due to a medical situation, she is fired, and Acme feels that's exactly what she deserves.
In the Trenches: Reasonable accommodations for mental disability?
Are there any situations under which a company is obliged to make reasonable accommodations for a mental disability to parallel the obligation to accommodate a physical disability? Acme runs into a difficult situation with an employee it dismisses with a mental disability in the latest In the Trenches. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: English-only policy a discrimination suit waiting to happen
An Acme employee institutes an English-only policy in his plant filled with second-generation workers and the company ends up facing a union backlash. Find out the details in our monthly In the Trenches, where only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Acme's number fabrication leads to deep trouble
Acme's strong-armed technique to have an employee fabricate performance numbers to win a wrongful termination lawsuit ends with yet another firing and yet another lawsuit. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: Dirty negotiation ends with mud on Acme's face
After Acme lured away a capable maintenance manager with an overly generous offer, it tries to negotiate the deal half-way thru. When the manager refuses the renegotiation, Acme creates unreasonable goals for him and fires him for not meeting them and are saddled with a lawsuit. Find out what each could have done to avoid such a messy situation. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Acme's dress code isn't pretty
A long-time female Acme employee doesn't feel the new dress code policy is fair to women, and after she's fired for non-compliance, she sues. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
A disgruntled, disabled former employee sues Acme: could this have been prevented?
Based on a true story, fictional plant Acme is hit with a lawsuit from a disabled employee. Did Acme do everything it could and should when dealing with this employee? Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
In the Trenches: To your health
Acme learns something about selecting candidates for promotion.
In the Trenches: Acme learns a thing or two about anti-harassment policies
Based on a true story, fictional plant Acme learns that it better adhere to every detail of its anti-harassment policies. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Acme exerts its power under a no-fault attendance policy
An Acme employee sufferring from migraine headaches loses his position under a no-fault attendance policy. What could have Acme and the employee done to avoid such a situation?
Overstressed employee's panic attacks a real headache for Acme
Acme discovers something about the definition of overstressed.
Questionable contracts cause difficulty for Acme
A questionable contract clause comes into play when Acme fires an injured employee.
Religion and scheduling collide, with Acme left to clean up the pieces
Schedule disputes relating to religion spark an EEOC complaing from an ACME employee.
The case of the silent forklift
Acme serves up a roadblock that prevents a disabled worker from bettering himself
Acme has lawsuit on its hands after ordering epileptic employee to drive to work
An epileptic Acme employee suffers a seizure while driving to work, per his boss' instructions, and now there's a lawsuit. What could Acme have done differently?
Diversity policy raises hackles at Acme
In this month's In the Trenches, Acme's exploration of diversity by fiat backfires.
A paranoid Acme leaves a veteran jobless
A call to duty leaves an Acme employee without a job when he returns. A lawsuit follows. How can you avoid this situation?
Back overtime pay for long-time worker? Acme could have a problem on its hands
After decades on the job, an Acme maintenance worker disagrees with a company policy and demands back overtime pay.
A split-shift babysitting arrangement turns into abuse: is Acme liable?
A single mother working for Acme employs a split-shift coworker to care for her daughter after school. The arrangement turns into a lawsuit for Acme when the coworker abuses the child and the mother points the finger at her employer.
Acme's penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to cherished employees
A new company policy's legality is questioned at Acme by a cherished employee. When management refuses to compromise on the policy, it is faced with a lawsuit. How can this situation be avoided at your plant?
Charging techs for tools brings a lawsuit to Acme
Acme's new company policy charges technicians for tools. When the company refuses to compromise, a cherished employee brings a lawsuit.
Terminating a victim of domestic violence leads to lawsuits for Acme
An Acme contractor is the victim of domestic violence and is informed by Acme that his services have been terminated. Acme is quickly met with a lawsuit from the fired contractor. How could this situation have been avoided?
Pilot plant opportunity becomes one woman's Acme nightmare-- could a lawsuit have been avoided?
A pilot plant opportunity for a woman employee turns into a harassment nightmare. Lewd comments, non-private changing quarters and little management interference lead to a lawsuit. How could this situation been avoided?
A clash of strong personalities leads to trouble for Acme
Acme uncovers trouble when it scours the county in search of a new employee
A rocky on-work affair leads to big trouble for Acme
Acme finds itself in trouble when an executive stops doing what comes naturally
In the Trenches: Caught in a web
Fine weather brings Acme a digital nightmare
Giving false reviews to poor performers puts Acme in a tight spot
Acme learns it's not good to be overly tolerant
Privacy vs. security: Acme's locker searches brew trouble
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme weighs an individual's privacy rights.
How to deal with emotional outbursts in the workplace
In this edition of In the Trenches, life gets difficult when unexpected and uncontrolled emotional outbursts explode in the local Acme plant.
Maternity leave for men?
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme tests the relative strength of corporate versus family loyalty.
Violating labor laws to cut costs
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme wonders if its corporate environment strongly influenced a supervisor's unethical behavior.
The true cost of taking a medical leave of absence
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme proves that it's better to stay healthy.
Should a youthful appearance prevent an employee from being promoted?
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme wonders if an employees' age should affect their advancement.
Acme's in the doghouse after troublee with visually disabled employee
In this edition of In the Trenches, Acme struggles to rate the performance a worker with disabilities.
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