We have a new employee who is already having childcare issues. She wants to be able to leave early to pick up her children from their summer camp activities. Are we required to accommodate her? Or can we change her to part-time?
If we were on the phone with you, we would be asking an extensive amount of questions related to schedule flexibility, the frequency of her request, and the employee’s history at your practice. All of these details come into play when giving a specific answer, but for the sake of this HR Roundup, we will keep it general. We want to keep in mind the impact on you as the manager and on the rest of your team that this issue may have.
The legal side of things: There actually is no law that requires you to change your schedule based on an employee’s childcare needs. You can tell your employee that the schedule is what it is, and it’s her responsibility to find a way to meet the requirements of her job.
There may be specific absences that have some protection, such as needing a day off due to the child being sick or having to leave early due to an emergency daycare closing. But an ongoing lack of childcare outside of their school/daycare/summer camp hours is technically not your responsibility.
Now for the human approach: Working with your employee to find a solution is typically the ideal option. If you can accommodate this employee by adjusting their current work or break schedule, this is a much easier option considering the cost of turnover, both on a monetary level and on the culture/morale of your practice.
Even if this is impractical to allow long-term, you may want to consider adjusting her schedule for a set period of time with the expectation that she’s arranging to have childcare set up so she can return to her regular schedule. You might even remind her that she will be asked in the future to cover for those who cover for her.
If the employee is really looking for long-term accommodation here, one solution could be to allow the employee to start the day later or end earlier if your practice schedule allows this. If not, and there are no adjustments that can be made to the daily schedule that would give her the flexibility she needs, exploring the idea of switching to part-time is also an option. Note that any change you make should be well documented.
If going over all of this still leads to no solution, then with the proper documentation and procedures followed, if the employee decides they will just be late or leave early, you could let them go.
One of my employees has been making a lot of mistakes, which is out of character for them. I'm concerned they may be under the influence of something. Can I drug test them?
The legal side of things: Not so fast! A lot of employers think that they can drug test any employee whenever they want. However, that’s not quite right.
Generally speaking, if you’re wanting to drug test only a specific individual, you must have reasonable suspicion that they are working while impaired.
This means you’ve witnessed objective signs of impairment, like slurred speech or stumbling. We would want to know exactly what kind of mistakes the employee is making and if specific behavior has accompanied those mistakes.
Of course, states have their own drug testing laws too. Make sure you know what restrictions your state might have before sending someone for a drug test. We’ve seen employers try to enforce their own drug testing policies only to find they’re in direct violation of what the law says. It’s a good idea to have an expert review these kinds of policies before you add them to your handbook.
Now for the human approach: Realistically, there are countless reasons why an employee might be making more mistakes than normal. Don’t jump to conclusions. Instead, focus on the mistakes that are being made and the objective issue at hand: you need the employee to stop making the mistakes. Have a formal conversation with the employee and bring examples - “you messed up billing on five accounts last week,” “the doctor said you handed him the wrong tool during treatment on X date and X date,” etc.
The best course of action is to follow the same coaching process you normally would. But having this conversation with the employee also gives them the opportunity to share if there’s actually an underlying reason for these mistakes. They might feel like they need additional support or accountability to improve their work, or they may have something going on in their personal life that is causing them to be distracted. We’re not saying this excuses their mistakes - they still need to be addressed and documented. But it can help you better understand why these mistakes are happening and what the best way to remedy them is. Instead of testing to discover something, focus on the issues and ask for explanations.
Of course, if there are objective signs of impairment, this would need to be a different conversation. This blog includes some examples on how you can have this conversation. Stick to the facts and the impact their behavior has on the safety of your business. Talk to an HR expert if they admit to being impaired and you decide to drug test them.
Do you have any recommendations for the best behavioral interview questions? Is there anything I should avoid?
The legal side of things: In short, yes, there are many things you can’t ask. There’s the obvious ones most employers are aware of - don’t ask about their religion, ethnicity, children, relationship status, etc.
The past few years have also brought a slew of new laws related to pre-employment inquiries. Many states now prohibit questions about the candidate’s criminal background or salary history. Make sure you know what laws apply in your state and review your hiring process to make sure it’s compliant.
Side note - a lot of employers have turned to checking candidate’s social media as part of the screening and interview process. We’re here to stay, you should stop doing that. It’s an easy way to learn information about a candidate that you should not know. Check out this recent episode of ‘What the Hell Just Happened?!’ to learn more.
Now for the human approach: Interviews can be just as stressful for you as they are for the employee, especially when the questions you ask don’t lead to answers that can help you make a good hiring decision. There’s a lot of different answers out there for what the “best” kind of interview questions are, but we’re partial to behavioral interview questions.
Behavioral interview questions center around the candidate’s past experience. Because these questions require the candidate to provide real examples of situations they’ve dealt with before (instead of hypothetical situations that you’ve given them), it gives you a better idea of how they might handle specific situations and/or use their skills as an employee of your business.
Behavioral questions also require a lot more input from the candidate, reducing the chances of you simply getting a yes or no answer like you might from a traditional interview question. For example, the response to “do you consider yourself a team player?” (traditional) will likely give you much less insight than “can you give me an example of a time you worked with other departments to solve an issue?” (behavioral) will.
For any question to be a good interview question, it has to make sense for your business. There’s no one size fits all when it comes to the specifics of a question. We provide lots of examples and you can learn more about writing your own behavioral questions in our hiring guide.