ASK THE EXPERTS is presented in partnership with PLANET’s Trailblazers On Call program. Trailblazers are industry leaders who volunteer their time and expertise to give back to the industry.
Q. An employee we suspected of using drugs has brought us a physician's approval and prescription for medical marijuana. The employee says he must use it every few days to control severe headaches and nausea. He has never exhibited either of these maladies in the eight months he has been employed, and we have doubts about its validity. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), must we comply and accommodate his medical issues by allowing him to continue working in some lesser capacity?
1. The ADA requires a reasonable accommodation if, as a result of the accommodation, the employee would then be capable of performing the job the way you need it to be performed. This employee can already do the job. Taking the drug does not make him capable of performing the job; it makes him incapable.
2. There is no job to which you can assign someone who is under the influence of a hallucinatory substance. His ability to do the job is impaired. He cannot be entrusted to perform any function effectively and safely. He cannot be assigned to sit in a chair all day without the risk of harming himself or others.
3. Allowing an employee that you know to be under the influence of a hallucinatory substance to work, not only endangers that employee, but also other employees, your customers and the general public. In that you decided to accept the risk, you will likely be held accountable for any adverse outcomes.
The issue is not whether he truly has the maladies or not. The physician's statement determines that. If you doubt the physician's statement, you can require a second opinion, which you must pay for. Many attorneys will then advise a third opinion tie-breaker. The issue is, you can never allow an employee who is under the influence of a hallucinatory substance to perform any work or even be free on the premises.
The recommended procedure is to inform him that he may not return to work while he is using this substance and until he successfully passes a drug screening.
William Cook, PLANET HR consultant
Q. I'm considering hiring a consultant to help me take my company to the next level. What criteria should I consider?
A. This question is often asked after you have had a bad experience, and I often wonder why it is not the first question. Hiring a consultant is like taking on a partner for your company.
He or she will bring change and new ideas to your organization. You should always create a list of what you wish to have the consultant help you with. Is it more revenue, better estimating, more efficiency, budgeting, better financial data, risk and liability mitigation, training or safety programs, a better sales and marketing process, strategic planning, implementation of systems or all of the above?
I often tell clients that working with a consultant is like eating an elephant. You will get it done, but it takes one bite at a time and a long time to finish.
A good consultant will ask a lot of questions of you and your staff. He or she will need to generate buy-in from your staff. As we all know, if just the boss wants to change things, it often goes terribly wrong and doesn't get implemented for very long. You should conduct your own interview of the candidate and make sure you are able to converse and work together. You want to make sure they truly understand the industry as it is today and are able to work within the parameters of your business culture and current state.
Some consultants will try to integrate their systems into your business and not adapt their systems to your business. I look at hiring a consultant the same as buying new mowers. There are many choices available, but you must do your research and chose the one that brings the most value to your organization at the best price for that value. Spending a little more on the right piece of equipment (or consultant) will bring much more value and results to your company so don't just shop on price alone. Make sure you check references, talk to former or current clients about how they fit into the company and what was the biggest challenge they faced in working together.
Lastly, ask the references about the results they achieved working with this consultant and see if they are aligned with what you are trying to do for your company. Consultants are a tool for you to use to cut years off the learning process. As I tell clients, I can teach you to do in a few years what it took me to do in 23 because I made 18 years of mistakes.
Rich Arlington III, Rich Arlington & Associates, PLANET Trailblazer
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