Daddy’s Home 2—fisticuffs in the workplace

November 28, 2017 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

While the holiday season can be a time of great joy and celebration, it also can be loaded with stress. Indeed, the pressures of preparing for the holiday and spending an inordinate amount of time in close quarters with friends and familyBusinessman trying to resist huge male fist and move it can bring long-simmering feuds and frustrations to the surface. This concept is handled with humor and heart in Daddy’s Home 2. Unfortunately, as the film illustrates, such private squabbles can sometimes spill over into public places including the workplace, which is yet another reason for employers to be well-versed on conflict resolution tactics and workplace violence issues.

The second film picks up where the first left offwith our characters navigating the sometimes tricky terrain of forming a modern, blended family. Brad and Dusty (Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg) seem to have figured out how to work together in their respective roles of stepfather and father to raise the kids they both love dearly. However, when Brad’s hyper-affectionate, beloved father (played by John Lithgow) and Dusty’s estranged, hyper-masculine and emotionally distant father (played by Mel Gibson) come to town to celebrate Christmas, it’s a recipe for jealousies and conflicts.

When severe winter weather leaves our characters stranded in a movie theater with countless others, the tensions come to a head with theater employees looking on as certain family members attempt to duke out their differences. While the scene makes for an amusing holiday spectacle on the big screen, it also illustrates how quickly tensions can escalate and  employers (particularly those regularly dealing with the public in their day-to-day operations) may find themselves dealing with the unexpected. Indeed, nearly two million Americans each year report having been victims of workplace violence. Here are five employer tips for dealing with workplace conflicts:

1. Establish policies and complaint procedures for dealing with conflicts between employees and those involving any members of the public who may come into the workplace.

2. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) strongly recommends that employers establish a zero-tolerance policy regarding workplace violence. This policy should cover all workers, patients, clients, visitors, contractors, and anyone else who may come in contact with company personnel. Employees should know the policy and understand that any workplace violence complaints will be investigated and remedied promptly.

3. Early intervention is key. Train employees on the policies and advise them to report potential issues to management and/or human resources early and before any conflicts have an opportunity to escalate.

4. Assess the workplace to identify methods for reducing the likelihood of an incident occurring, and establish a plan in the event that an emergency situation arises. Consider OSHA-recognized risk factors such as whether employees exchange money with the public, work with potentially unstable individuals, work alone or in isolated areas, work where alcohol is served, or work late at night or in high-crime areas.

5.  Establish a workplace violence prevention program. OSHA provides guidance on establishing such a program as well as various online training and other resources.

The bottom line is that employers have a duty to provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards. It’s important to have the necessary policies and procedures in place to deal with potential emergencies, including workplace violence issues. With that said, we wish all of you a safe and joyous holiday season.

Solar eclipse guide for employers

August 21, 2017 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Today’s solar eclipse is expected to be an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with people from all over flocking to the path of totality.  While this will likely mean considerable economic benefits from tourism, it is also expected to be quite costly for employers.  According to an estimate by outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas, this afternoon’s celestial show will cost employers a staggering $694 million due to reduced productivity.  Employers in the path of totality are expected to be hit especially hard.

With the eclipse happening on a regular work day and with schools closing in anticipation of the event, employers can expect an unusually high number of employee absences today.  For those employees showing up as scheduled, Solar eclipseemployers can still expect a dip in productivity while the eclipse is happening.  There is a silver lining, as the eclipse gives employers the opportunity for team-building and morale boosting events in celebration.  Here are a few employers tips for today’s eclipse:

1.  Consider embracing today’s event and having a voluntary eclipse viewing party for employees.

2.  Remind employees to use proper safety eyewear for viewing the eclipse at any employer function.

3.  Remind employees to be cautious about any viewing glasses they purchased on their own, given the number of scams reported.  If the glasses are employer-provided, ensure they are properly certified.

4.  For those employers with employees outdoors for work or work-sponsored events, consider any necessary safety precautions to prevent accidents caused by the reduction in light during totality, distraction, etc.

5.  Consult your legal counsel and insurance providers about on any potential liability for injuries during employer-sponsored eclipse activities.

In a few short hours, we can expect the skies to darken, the stars to twinkle, the animals to go into their nighttime routines, and a record number of camera snaps.  Whatever your plans today, we wish you a safe and happy solar eclipse experience.

Stuntman’s death on ‘The Walking Dead’ set a sad reminder of common workplace hazards

July 18, 2017 - by: Marilyn Moran 0 COMMENTS
Marilyn Moran

Tragically, stuntman John Bernecker died last week in Atlanta after falling 30 feet to a concrete floor while working on a fight scene for AMC’s zombie-apocalypse series “The Walking Dead.” In response, the show temporarily halted production of its eighth season, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) opened an investigation.  Safety Always

According to OSHA, more than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured.  While all accidents cannot be avoided, under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, every employer is responsible for the safety and health of its employees while on the job.

Last October, OSHA released its annual list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations, based on data compiled from nearly 32,000 workplace inspections:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Scaffolds
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Lockout/tagout
  6. Powered industrial trucks
  7. Ladders
  8. Machine guarding
  9. Electrical wiring
  10. Electrical, general requirements

This list rarely changes from year to year, and OSHA contends that the number of workplace deaths and injuries would dramatically decline if employers focused on correcting these hazards.

The stuntman’s death on the set of “The Walking Dead,” which resulted from injuries associated with a fall, is believed to be the first stunt-related death reported in the United States in the last 17 years. Injuries from falls, however, especially in the construction industry, remain among the most common workplace hazards and continue to dominate OSHA’s list, with fall protection, scaffolds, and ladder issues among the top 10.

Of course, OSHA regulations are the bare-minimum standards employers must meet to be in compliance with the law, but employers should strive to go above and beyond the minimal requirements to ensure a safe workplace for their employees. Not only is it the right thing to do, but studies have shown that providing a safe workplace reduces costs, raises productivity, and improves morale, and that’s just good business.

For more information and OSHA’s recommendations for creating a safety and health program, go to www.osha.gov/shpguidelines. Finally, if your business is facing an OSHA investigation or needs advice about OSHA compliance, you should consult your employment counsel.

May you rest in peace, Mr. Bernecker.

Tesla’s CEO makes personal pledge for employee safety

Kristin Starnes Gray

Tesla, an electric-automobile manufacturer, made headlines last month after Worksafe, a California-based worker advocacy group, released a report indicating that the injury rates at Tesla’s Fremont manufacturing facility were higher than the industry aNissan Mechanicverage in 2014 and 2015. For example, the report indicated that the rate of serious injuries at Tesla’s Fremont plant (i.e., those resulting in days away from work, restricted duty, or transfer) was approximately double the industry rate for 2015. The report further questioned Tesla’s claim that injury rates had fallen between 2016 and 2017, with Worksafe arguing that the injury data Tesla had recorded at that time was too preliminary to be considered accurate.

In an effort to improve safety, Tesla has recently made a number of changes, such as: adding a third shift to reduce overtime and improve safety; hiring an ergonomics team to focus exclusively on improving health and safety and reducing ergonomic risks; and adding a safety team to each department. Most recently, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took the additional step of sending this e-mail to employees to demonstrate just how serious he is about employee safety:

No words can express how much I care about your safety and well-being. It breaks my heart when someone is injured building cars and trying their best to make Tesla successful.

Going forward, I’ve asked that every injury be reported directly to me, without exception. I’m meeting with the safety team every week and would like to meet every injured person as soon as they are well, so that I can understand from them exactly what we need to do to make it better.  I will then go down to the production line and perform the same task that they perform.

This is what all managers at Tesla should do as a matter of course. At Tesla, we lead from the front line, not from a safe and comfortable ivory tower. Managers must always put their team’s safety above their own.

It will be interesting to see what comes from this personal pledge by Musk. In the meantime, all employers should be continually evaluating and reevaluating their safety efforts in the workplace. To drive home its mission of workplace safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) currently lists on its website the names of workers across the country who have lost their lives on the job in various industries, along with the dates, locations by state, and manners of their deaths. According to OSHA’s figures, “[m]ore than 4,500 workers lose their lives on the job every year” across the country and across industries. Planning, training, and supervision are keys for prevention.

Tragedies on and off the silver screen: How to avoid costly workplace injuries

April 10, 2017 - by: Angela Cummings 0 COMMENTS
Angela Cummings

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is the title of a science fiction horror film that was recently released worldwide. The horror that occurred behind the scenes in the making of the movie rivaled the fictional onscreen terror. First, the leading actress’ stuntwoman, Olivia Jackson, sustained life-threatening injuries, including cerebral trauma, a crushed face, a severed neWork Injury Claim Formck artery, a paralyzed arm that had to be amputated, spinal cord damage, and multiple broken bones, all from a motorcycle collision with a camera crane. Then, later in filming, another crew member, Richard Cornelius, was killed when one of the movie’s props, an Army Hummer, crushed him.

In addition to such stunt and crew film personnel, actors themselves often suffer serious workplace injuries while filming movies. For example, while filming “Syriana,” A-list actor George Clooney broke his spine during a stunt scene gone awry. His injury was so serious that he was bedridden for a month with severe migraines, during which time he also suffered from depression.

Like the Hollywood employees just mentioned, everyday workers also suffer workplace injuries. These injuries can prove costly to their employers in the form of workers’ compensation claims, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) penalties, and loss of productivity and morale. Private employers reported approximately 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses to OSHA in 2015. Moreover, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that approximately 4,500 employees suffer workplace injuries each year that result in their deaths. Such recorded workplace injuries and illnesses range in severity and include wounds, amputations, back injuries, as well as fatal accidents from crushing and falling.

Almost one-half of the recorded workplace injuries were serious enough to result in direct or indirect financial loss to the employer, including the injured employee missing a day or more from work, requiring a transfer to a different position, or needing to limit some duties of his or her position due to a doctor-imposed work restriction. In addition, these are just the reported injuries. It’s safe to say that many thousands more injuries are either not reported by the employee and/or the employer.

Let’s take a quick look at the most common workplace injuries reported by employers and some tips for how to limit exposure to such accidents and injuries:

Overexertion

This tends to be the most common–and costly–type of injury for employers, resulting in a high number of workers’ compensation claims. How can employers limit injuries related to physical exertion?

  • Be sure employees take a sufficient number of breaks, especially in jobs that require strenuous physical movement. Many workplace injuries occur when a worker is tired.
  • Schedule the most difficult and labor-intensive tasks for employees at the beginning of their shifts, when they are fresh and able to concentrate more with respect to proper technique and safety.
  • Also, be sure that the workers have sufficient training to do their job tasks using proper methods and that supervisory personnel provide adequate oversight.

Slipping/falling

Another common cause of workplace injuries is slipping/falling. Such accidents are often preventable. Injuries sustained by employees who slip or fall in the workplace can be minor, such as bruises, or major, such as death due to a head injury. Here’s how employers can limit injuries related to slipping/falling:

  • Clean up spills as soon as they occur. Also, employers should ensure that the washing and cleaning of floors and stairs is limited to low-occupancy times of the day and that the areas being cleaned are marked sufficiently to put the employees on alert.
  • Be sure that all guardrails are properly maintained and that no debris or slippery trash (think: banana peels) causes hazardous conditions.
  • Finally, you can limit accidents with respect to falling from heights (such as ladders, rooftops, and stairs) by ensuring that employees always use safety harnesses and are trained about specific processes related to working from heights.

Vehicle accidents

Some employees must drive motorized vehicles for a living (cars, buses, trucks, tractors, etc.). Driving a vehicle as part of one’s job creates inherent safety risks and exposes both employers and employees to costly accidents and injuries. OSHA reports that workplace-driving accidents cost employers an average of $60 billion per year. How can employers limit injuries related to vehicle accidents?

  • Ensure that all drivers have proper training and licensing.
  • Conduct inspections of company-owned vehicles at regular intervals and make necessary repairs immediately afterwards.
  • Also, mandate that the employees who operate such vehicles be drug- and alcohol-free. Obviously, when an employee operates a vehicle under the influence, it results in compromised coordination, judgment, and concentration.

Companies must take active steps to keep their workplaces safe for employees, customers, vendors, and, in some cases, the general public. You, as human resources professionals, should work with both managers and employees to implement safety programs and provide thorough and regular training. With such practices, your workplace is less likely to resemble a horror film.

Learning from Orlando: addressing potentially violent employees

June 21, 2016 - by: Josh Sudbury 0 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

In the nine days since Omar Mateen opened fire in the Pulse nightclub, killing 49 individuals and injuring several others, a report surfaced that Mateen’s violent nature and potential to do harm to others was readily apparent to at least one of his co-workers. According to the Los Angeles Times, Daniel Gilroy, who worked with Mateen for about a year as a security guard at PGA Village South in Port St. Lucie, FL, complained multiple times to their employer that Mateen was dangerous, that “he didn’t like blacks, women, lesbians and Jews.” Gilroy claims his employer’s failure to respond to the complaints left him with no choice but to resign. “I quit because everything he said was toxic,” Gilroy to USA Today, “and the company wouldn’t do anything. This guy was unhinged and unstable. He talked of killing people.”  New York City

Last week, in the immediate aftermath of the Orlando shooting incident, Marilyn Moran, partner in the Orlando office of Ford Harrison, offered employers advice on how to help employees in crisis through empathy and counseling, while remaining compliant with state and federal employment laws. The situation also highlights another issue that confronts employers on a daily basis: the potentially violent employee.

Reports of a potentially violent co-worker bring many difficult questions to bear. What are the nature of the alleged comments? Who is the source of the complaint and does that person have ulterior motives? Most important, should we get law enforcement involved or can we handle this ourselves? Because most employers will encounter such a situation at some point, it is best to formulate a plan of action and train your front level managers/supervisors on how to respond.

First and foremost, human resources professionals and managers must remain engaged with their workforce. Allowing yourself to detach from your employees for great lengths of time, whether it’s to catch up on paperwork or tend to other issues, may permit small problems to fester into big ones. This is not to say you can control or prevent a violent employee simply by seeing him/her on a regular basis. What you can do, however, is assist your managers in recognizing and addressing any potential issues before they become unmanageable or more threatening.

Remaining engaged also will help you ferret out the real problems from the noncredible complaints. As with any complaint investigation, if you have no personal experience with the alleged violent employee or the complaining employee, you will be at a severe disadvantage in evaluating character and credibility. When the human resources department cannot gain face-to-face exposure to employees as easily, such as in larger workforces or employers with multiple locations, it is critically important to have managers who are actively engaged with the employees they supervise. This does not mean managers should attempt to be their employees’ best friend. They should, however, remain present in the workplace, approachable, and maintain the highest levels of credibility with their employees at all times. This will serve to foster open communication about any issues arising about or between employees.

Employers also should maintain clear and well-disseminated policies prohibiting violence or threatening conduct toward coworkers and third parties. This includes verbal threats of potential harm. Employees should know to whom they should report this kind of conduct, and employers should investigate all complaints.

Employers may be hesitant to take action against an employee due to concerns that the employee may claim disability discrimination. While mental disabilities are protected, direct threats to co-workers and others are not. Employers should be sure not to take action against an employee simply because he/she has a mental disability that has shown the potential to result in violent or threatening behavior in others, such as bipolar disorder. Actions should be based on the employee’s own actions exhibiting a potential threat and not the employer’s assumptions about what might occur.

If a complaint or other situation appears to be particularly serious, do not hesitate to involve law enforcement officials. Do not underestimate complaints of violence or threatened violence to avoid a “scene.” Law enforcement are specially trained to handle potentially threatening situations and/or individuals. They can help assess the seriousness of a reported threat and determine the appropriate response. At the very least, law enforcement will create a report documenting the situation and the employers response. Employers owe it to their employees and their communities to take every effort to address these issues head on.

 

 

Elf: one too many Christmas spirits

December 19, 2014 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 1 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

With Christmas just around the corner, my family and I have begun our yearly ritual of re-watching our favorite holiday films. At the top of the list is a relatively newer addition, Elf.  The comedy stars Will Ferrell as Buddy, a human who crawls into Santa’s sack and ends up being raised by Papa Elf at the North Pole. After learning that he is actually human rather than an elf, Buddy decides to travel to New York to find his biological father, who works at a children’s book company and happens to be on the Naughty List. Much of the film’s comedy and charm comes from Buddy’s child-like innocence and genuine holiday cheer as he tries to navigate the cynical world of New York City. shutterstock_236981068At his father’s office, this same innocence leads Buddy to mistake a mail room worker’s whiskey for delicious maple syrup. As you can imagine, a six-foot tall elf can cause quite a ruckus in the workplace after having too many spirits.

Employers are well aware that illicit drug use and alcohol abuse can be costly in the workplace. Drug-free workplace programs can be powerful tools in spreading prevention messages and intervening early with those who have already begun to use drugs. For many individuals, especially those who may deny that their use of drugs is problematic, workplace-based programs can be a critical step along the road to treatment and recovery. Every workplace is different, and drug-free workplace programs should be tailored to match a company’s individual needs. Here are some general recommendations for such programs:

  • Have a written drug-free workplace policy explaining why the policy was enacted and providing a clear description of prohibited behaviors as well as an explanation of the consequences for violating the policy.
  • Train supervisors to understand the policy and recognize employees with performance issues that may be related to substance abuse.  Training also should explain how to refer employees for professional help.
  • Implement employee education programs providing information on the policy, how to comply with the policy, the consequences for violations, and general information about the dangers of substance abuse.
  • Have an employee assistance program to help prevent, identify, and resolve issues relating to substance abuse.
  • Implement drug testing to deter and detect drug use and to provide concrete evidence for intervention.

Luckily for Buddy, he manages to escape his inadvertent workplace drunkenness relatively unscathed and is free to return to his true vice–sugar, sugar, and more sugar. Feel free to share your holiday traditions, cautionary tales of workplace spirits, and also your thoughts on the new animated Elf special starring another one of my favorites, the talented Jim Parsons. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to our readers.

 

A scar is born

November 11, 2014 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

On The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon the other night, the host and Matthew McConaughey competed to see who could throw the most footballs at the other guy’s face. Not his physical face, of course, but glass plates printed with each guy’s face. Toward the end, McConaughey steps in front of Fallon as he is about to throw, and I immediately start thinking, “What if he hits the actor square in the nose with a football?”shutterstock_183450509

As an employment lawyer, I wasn’t so concerned about McConaughey’s career. Did you see him as modern day Rust Cohle? Dude can pull off ugly just fine. No, my concern was whether he could be compensated for his injuries. Would it be covered by workers’ comp?  Could he sue The Tonight Show or Fallon? Turns out, Hollywood has had to deal with these kinds of safety issues in the past. Here are two cases worth noting.

In 2002 an extra working on the remake of Planet of the Apes sued Fox Entertainment for injuries allegedly suffered by heavy dust that the filmmakers blew across the set during a battle scene. The general rule is that workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for on-the-job injuries. The extra argued that the producers knew the blowing dust was harmful and thus they committed an intentional tort, which is not barred by workers’ compensation exclusivity. A California appellate court rejected that argument. Plaintiffs often try to get around workers’ compensation by accusing employers of intentional torts and seeking emotional and punitive damages. In the California case, however, the court relied on the crucial difference between acts of gross negligence and actual intent to injure, finding the case fell into the former category.

In 2006 actress Tippi Hedren of Hitchcock fame was injured on the set of the television show Fashion House. She sued the building owner and management firm for her injuries, but curiously did not sue her agent for putting her on Fashion House. Her attorney filed a voluntary dismissal without prejudice before trial, but he neglected to include a provision that would toll the limitations period on her action. Big mistake. When he subsequently refiled the lawsuit, it was dismissed as time-barred. As a result, Hedren won a malpractice verdict against her attorney for more than $1.4 million, most of which compensated her for physical, emotional, and economic injuries as a result of the accident.

So in closing, don’t throw footballs at each other’s faces, and hire a decent lawyer.

The Abominable Boss Man

October 31, 2014 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

In honor of Halloween, this post will address some of the many potential workplace issues in the Pixar film, Monsters, Inc.  If you’ve been living under a rock and have managed to not see this film (or its recent sequel), here’s a quick recap. A city called Monstropolis is inhabited by monsters and is powered by the screams of children in the human world. shutterstock_98138216At Monsters, Inc., employees (or “Scarers”) have the job of scaring human children and collecting their screams to power the city. The company, however, is facing a serious dilemma and potential energy crisis, as human children are become harder to frighten. Through a series of amusing misadventures, the top Scarer, Sulley, and his best friend, Mike, end up caring for a little girl they dub “Boo.”

In trying to return Boo safely to the human world, Mike and Sulley discover that one of the Scarers, Randall, plans to kidnap children (particularly Boo) and use a torture machine on company property to extract their screams. Randall tries to use the torture machine on Mike, but Sulley saves the day. Sulley reports Randall and his torture device to the company chairman, who responds by promptly exiling Mike and Sulley to the Himalayas. I won’t spoil the ending for the two or three of you who have not yet seen the movie.

Thankfully, in the human world, your boss can’t respond to a workplace complaint by  shipping you off to the Abominable Snowman (though this banished yeti happens to be much friendlier than expected). Indeed, a number of state and federal laws prohibit discrimination and retaliation against employees for reporting certain workplace issues. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is intended to “assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions . . . .” OSHA contains a nondiscrimination provision, which prohibits employers from discharging or otherwise discriminating against an employee because the employee filed a safety or health complaint or otherwise engaged in protected activity under the Act.

The monster equivalent of OSHA might have saved Mike and Sulley a trip to the Himalayas, but then it would have been a rather short movie. Plus, the Abominable Snowman would still be sorting mail at Monsters, Inc., rather than  serving up some delicious snow cones. Don’t worry–the yellow ones are lemon-flavored. Happy Halloween!

Learning from tragedy–depression and mental health in the workplace

August 17, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 2 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

This past week, the entertainment world lost one of its best and brightest to an apparent suicide. Robin Williams, who brought laughter to so many for so long, took his own life at the age of 63. So much has been written about his talent over the past week that it’s difficult to understand or accept how such a thing could have happeneshutterstock_198363611d. But, Robin Williams’ tragic death is a reminder to all of us of the very real and very serious presence of anxiety and depression in our daily lives regardless of whether we ourselves or a close friend or family member suffers from these afflictions.

Just as much as depression can affect our home and family lives, it also has a serious impact at work. In 1995, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that as many as 1 in 20 employees was suffering from depression. So, count how many employees work for your company and do the math. If you are a company of any size, it’s likely that at least one or more of your employees may be dealing with his or her own depression or that of a family member.

Depression may manifest itself in any number of ways, including decreased productivity, morale problems, lack of cooperation, safety risks and accidents, absenteeism, complaints of being tired all the time or of unexplained aches and pains, and/or alcohol and drug abuse, just to name a few. These symptoms can be present periodically or persistently. And the threat may not be only to productivity but also to the safety of the individual and his or her coworkers.

But, you may be asking yourself, “what’s an employer to do?” It’s highly likely that neither you nor the members of your management team are properly trained mental health professionals. It would be much more appropriate for your company to establish an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to help employees with personal problems that can affect their well-being and work performance. An EAP can provide counseling or treatment to assist employees (and their family members) with issues such as (1) substance abuse, (2) financial problems, and (3) emotional distress, among others. Employers offering an EAP should be sure to communicate to employees that treatment is confidential (unless an EAP counselor is legally required to disclose information such as child abuse) and won’t become a part of their personnel records.

Even if you have an established EAP or other similar program, you would not want your management staff going around asking every underperforming employee whether they are suffering from depression. Rather, the important thing is to train supervisors to spot performance and morale issues when they occur and report them to the appropriate individuals, either within management or human resources, so the company can address the situation appropriately.

Once the appropriate company representative is notified, he/she can approach the affected employee in a way that doesn’t encroach upon the individual’s privacy while offering an opportunity to get the needed help. The best way to do this is to approach the situation with a focus on the employee’s particular performance deficiency. For instance, the supervisor could say to the employee: “I have noticed you’ve been coming in late more frequently and that the product of your work has not been up to par. I do not know if this is the case for you, but you should know that if personal issues are affecting your work, the company offers an assistance program you can contact confidentially,” as opposed to saying, “You seem depressed. Is something wrong?” In addition, if the employee comes to a supervisor and talks about mental health problems, the supervisor should listen but not try to diagnose, and should recommend that the employee seek help from a professional regardless of whether the company has an EAP.

Though it may be difficult, it is important to address the signs and symptoms of mental illness in the workplace as they appear. Establishing an EAP or similar program is one way to provide help to your employees when they most need it and may improve the overall safety of your workforce.

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