Calling All HR Experts: Help This “Evil” Company

by Michael Haberman on September 15, 2011 · 4 comments


You may have seen this story in the news, Mom Loses Job After Kidney Donation, about a heartless company mistreating a poor mother who had lost an uncle, her mother, found out her father had lukemia and then her son needed a kidney. She had taken all her vacation while her mother died so when she stepped up to donate a kidney to her son she had no time off. She asked for leave of absence, which was granted with the provision that it did not guarantee her job, but found out she was replaced when she returned. Sound bad? Sure does, that is why I am calling all HR experts, your opinion is needed on helping this “evil” company.

Needless to say, with a story like this the company has been trashed in the media. But before you jump in and offer your opinion on how this should have been handled let me give you some other facts:

  • The company is not covered by FMLA, they only have 40 employees.
  • They are not unionized.
  • They are located in Pennsylvania, an at-will state, with an implied contract exception.
  • No story indicated how long she had been with the company.
  • No story indicated what her performance was at the company.
  • No story indicated what her job was.
  • The company decided to pay her salary while she reapplied for a job with the company.
  • The manager said he did not make policy, just enforced it.
  • The president of the company said he knew nothing about it when contacted by the press.

If you want to read the story you can read the original story here.

My questions for you are these:

  • If you were responsible for HR what would you have done?
  • What advice would you have given to this manager when he came to you and said he wanted to terminate her?
  • What would you do now for damage control?

Please let me know.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Hyman September 15, 2011 at 2:41 pm

1. I would not have replaced her, but instead found a position for her upon her return, even if it meant eating some extra salary in the short term.

2. I would have counseled against the termination. It’s likely legally incorrect under the ADA, and, as we’ve seen play out, a PR nightmare.

3. I would recommend they hire the best employment lawyer they can afford. They have serious exposure under the ADA under an “associational disability” theory. An unconditional offer of reinstatement (which is not what they did) would be a good start.

Reply

Michael Haberman September 15, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Jon, thanks for the reply. The “associational disability” is an excellent point for people to be aware of and to avoid.

Reply

Kathryn Teague September 16, 2011 at 10:54 am

The news article says she signed a piece of paper; did she get a copy of it? If there is nothing on that piece of paper to indicate that the employee might lose her position with the company under certain circumstances, she may have a case for a labor dispute.

If there is no documentation of performance review for this employee, she might have cause to believe that she was dismissed unfairly – especially if no one has been hired to take her place. If her performance reviews are not favorable, she still has the right to file suit against the company.

The fact that the president of the company says he was not aware of the situation tells me that probably there is no human resources manager or director with the company. In an organization that small, though, it raises the question of how actively involved the president is with his business. My guess is that the manager who “followed the policy” and dismissed the employee acted out of ignorance.

If I were the HR manager of the company, I hope that I would have established enough rapport with all employees to be at least vaguely aware of this woman’s family situation before she took her leave of absence. Procedurally, I would have any request for leave of absence – for whatever reason – be requested on a prescribed form (even if it is something the company creates), completed by the employee and the supervising employee and approved by the HR manger/director or the company president.

Reply

Michael Haberman September 16, 2011 at 10:58 am

Kathryn, thanks for the comment. She did get a copy of the paper, but it was unclear fromt the news stories I saw what the form said. I am not sure that might result in a labor dispute, but certainly a violation of a contract, depending on what was said. Great comment on the rapport part. Thanks.

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