This opens the company up to a possible ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) claim. In suggesting that a person may have a medical or mental health issue, you put the company in the position of ‘regarding’ your employee as being disabled. Under the ADA statute, as amended, regarding someone as disabled makes them disabled. Once someone can claim a disability, the company must engage in an interactive process to determine how (or if) the company can accommodate the disability.
2. You’re going to take 5 weeks off to “bond”? I don’t think so!
Most states provide for some sort of parental leave for the parents of a newborn or newly adopted child. In denying such a request (six weeks is the norm), you may be violating an employee’s rights to take this time.
3. You’re giving two weeks’ notice? Why don’t we just make today your last day? You’re fired!
Even if you don’t like this person, let them work out the two weeks notice, or pay them the two weeks and ask them to leave. There are certain reasons to accept a notice immediately, and they can be determined case-by-case based on business needs, but telling someone they are fired after they turn in their notice is inadvisable. When someone voluntarily turns in a notice, chances are really good that they will go away quietly, and you never hear from them again. Once you fire someone, you can get into wrongful termination lawsuits, as well as make that person eligible for an unemployment claim charged to your company. Much cheaper just to let them work out the two weeks (or pay it) and let them go away on their own.
4. Are you married, and what are your family plans?
Questions during an interview that do not relate to a job requirement are rarely legal. This one is not legal.
5. Oh, what a lovely accent---where are you from?
As with the answer to situation number four, asking someone a question that could lead you to determine ethnic origin is not legal.
6. Do you really want to transfer to a job that has so much travel with all those young children?
A person’s parental status should not be a determining factor in whether they are offered a transfer or promotion. Assuming that a company has well-drafted job descriptions, the easy way around this is to place the job description for the new position in front of the employee (just as you would for an applicant), and then ask them to review the job description (it should include the travel requirements) and sign it indicating that they could do the job.
7. You’re fired, and I don’t have to give you any reason because employment is “at will.”
From a technical legal viewpoint this one is true. Employment-at-will exists on the books in 49 states. However, the courts in every state – and the federal courts – have been chipping away at employment-at-will for years. EMPO’s advice is to never rely on employment-at-will as the only reason to terminate an employee’s position with the company. Rather, an employee should be given chances to show that they can do the job with coaching whether they have been with the company for three weeks or thirty years.
By Scott Andreassen, SPHR, HR Director, EMPO Corporation
What stupid things have YOU witnessed supervisors saying? Click on the Comments link below to share.