I need to move someone to night shift and there’s a medical problem

by Evil HR Lady on February 6, 2014

Dear Evil HR Lady,

 I work in an IT Department for a large municipality and have an employee who is was hired as a day shift IT Supervisor by my predecessor. This employee has been a huge problem for me as he is highly unqualified.

 A little bit of history about the department that I work for; a few years ago it was uncovered by the media that our CIO was hiring members of his church to fill vacancies in the department. While this may seem like the noble thing to do the issue was most of them were unqualified for the positions and didn’t even have the basic skill sets for the position they held. In an IT environment this can be disastrous. Most of the employees hired by him were terminated due to lack of documentation such as a qualified resume.

 I took a position as an IT manager with this organization and currently have one of these employees that were hired by the previous CIO under my direction. This employee has had little to no formal training in IT and doesn’t understand technology or the equipment he responsible for. This is a problem as he is responsible for supervising and developing 10 subordinates and a lot of technology. Needless to say he is unable to provide technical guidance to his staff and often misrepresents the technology to which he supports to his customers. Huge problem!

 I have been working documenting the deficiencies in performance discussions and in his performance reviews. I recently had to issue a letter of reprimand stemming from his inability to perform his job. With my organization it can be a very long and drawn out process to terminate someone due to disciplinary and performance problems ..

 I am currently reorganizing my business unit and made the decision to move a more qualified supervisor to the day shift had made the decision to move the unqualified supervisor to the late night shift based on business needs. The business need being I need the supervisor who has the experience and job knowledge in the most visible shift to interface with customers, vendors and other staff members.

 The unqualified employee told me that he was not able to move to a different shift due to a medical condition. He added that because of the medication that he was taking he was unable to move to another shift and that it would affect his condition.

 I wanted to find out how I can go about verifying the validity of this claim? What can proof can I legally ask him for? My next question is; If the business need dictates the shift change and this employee is not able to change shifts due to medical reasons what are my options? Am I stuck with him being the face of my organization?

 Oh dear. This is an example of how a bad boss can make problems for years to come. Hiring people in need of a job is very nice. Hiring people who do not have relevant skills is not nice in the long run, precisely because it affects numerous people and this person will end up getting fired. But, that’s not your problem at the moment. Your problem is that you have someone who, because of his lack of skills, really can’t be in his current position, and because of the rules of your employer, you can’t just fire him outright.

So, transferring him to the night shift where he can do less damage while you sort out the performance issues is an excellent idea. And then up pops the medical reasons. Now, I can’t, from here, judge whether this is made up reason or a real one. Neither can you. Fortunately, you don’t have to.

You work for a municipality, so I’m pretty darn sure there is an HR department, and this needs to be kicked to them. There are a couple of things that need to be determined. The first is, is this a disability covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act? What is an what is not is pretty complicated, but the main criteria is does this problem have an impact on normal life functions. Therefore, having terrible vision that is corrected with glasses is not a disability, while having terrible vision that cannot be corrected with glasses is a disability. The courts generally err on the side of the employee, in my non-legal, non-lawyer opinion.

So, HR needs to give this guy some paperwork and ship him off to his physician to be filled out.

Let’s assume that the physician certifies this is a disability covered by ADA, and that the accommodation he needs is a day shift. Then the question becomes, is this a reasonable accommodation? Well, what is reasonable? In the case of a visually impaired employee, it’s reasonable to have text to speech software and a pair of headphones for emailing, for instance. It’s not reasonable for the same employee to ask for a position as a delivery driver, with the accommodation being he needs someone to drive for him.

So, is it reasonable that you assign him to the day shift? This may actually end up being required. After all, he’s been working the day shift, right? And so, since he has been doing it, it’s going to be reasonable to keep him doing it. Your real problem is he cannot do the job, either on the day shift or the night shift. Period. And that’s where you need to focus.

If there is anyway to speed up the termination process, I’d head that route. Documenting his inability to do the job is what is really critical here, because he needs to be gone.

But until that point, kick this to HR and have them start the paperwork. If there’s no qualifying disability, you can simply assign him to the night shift (provided unions and such don’t get in the way), and with any luck he’ll resign.

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