After missing 5 days of work over the course of 3 weeks, Diane’s supervisor, Kristin, approached her as these excessive absences were starting to affect productivity. Diane disclosed to Kristin that she recently started a new round of medication for her depression and her body was having a hard time adjusting, but she would try to call in sick less often. Over the next month, Diane’s attendance did not improve, and she continued to call in sick and leave work early. Kristin wrote her up for attendance-related reasons and Diane promptly filed a grievance to human resources, claiming that she felt she was being discriminated against based on the mental health condition she told her supervisor about.

How could Kristin have handled this situation differently? Should she have gone to human resources immediately to let them proceed in handling Diane’s disability? Should she have worked out a temporary schedule for Diane? Or, did she manage the situation adequately and was Diane off base in filing her grievance?

The importance of training managers is something that we have discussed in various capacities over the years. Your front-line managers play a huge part in the success of your organization as they are the ones responsible for ensuring that your employees’ performance meets company standards, projects are completed in a timely and efficient manner, and that your customer’s needs are met and they leave satisfied.

In addition to ensuring your managers are productive, engaged, and loyal, one of the top reasons to provide adequate training to your supervisors is to avoid potential litigation. Employee lawsuits can be draining on your organization’s time, energy, resources, and funds. Training your managers to handle certain situations in ways that alleviate risk and are compliant with federal and state employment and labor law is an effective first step in preventing investigations and lawsuits.

In the case of Diane and Kristin, Kristin should have immediately gone to HR and informed them of the mental health condition that Diane told her about. HR would have then met with Diane to discuss her need for a reasonable accommodation through the ADA (American’s with Disabilities Act) or to see if she is eligible for a job-protected leave of absence (either at the state level or the federal level through the Family Medical Leave Act [FMLA]).

The grievance and lost resources as a result could have been completely avoided if Kristin had been trained on what to do in a situation such as this. It is not the job of managers to handle leaves of absence or ADA issues, but it is their responsibility to ask the right questions. Training them to know what questions to ask, when to ask them, and when to reach out to their HR department or to HRCentral is a huge first step in avoiding potential lawsuits and the general disgruntlement of your employees.

Follow along this month as we continue to discuss the importance of job-protected leaves and ADA training, what to do in certain scenarios, and how HRCentral can help you navigate your way through this oftentimes overwhelming area of employee management.