From the Hotline: Dealing with Performance Issues

Question: We have an employee who is not working up to the expected speed in our retail store and has mentioned that it could be because of her weight. She does not assist with any of the physical tasks such as stocking shelves. She has not asked for a specific accommodation, but can we address the weight issue with her and ask for medical certification for accommodating her limited work?

Answer: We commend you for taking the first step in addressing the performance issues with the employee. If there is a job description readily available, or some document that the employee has already signed outlining expectations, we suggest meeting with the employee again and having a more detailed discussion off the store floor. The discussion should include:

  • An outline of the situation and your concerns.
  • Behavior that should be corrected, and what corrections are expected.
  • Timeline for corrections to be made.

After this discussion, give her a copy of the job description and ask if she can meet all aspects of the job scope as defined. While you want to be mindful of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, any modifications you are willing to make should be required and not assumed. If the employee addresses the weight issue, we recommend explaining that any modification to the expectations require a physician’s statement and request that she obtain such documentation within X business days based upon work schedule and reason. Otherwise, the employee should be held to the same expectations as all other employees in a similar job role. However, for example, if you are observing that the employee is overweight and climbing a ladder or footstool that could create a hazard due to a potential variance in weight limitations, then you may modify such activity until a reasonable tool can be obtained to ensure safety. We also recommend obtaining the employee’s verbal agreement of understanding the expectations as discussed. Any further work performance issues without supporting medical justification could lead to a documented progressive discipline process in accordance with your corrective action policy. You may want to also consider following up with a memo to the employee outlining the discussion and agreed upon expectations.