High Anxiety

Dealing with the mental health of your employees.

An employee who works alone in a warehouse comes to work "increasingly disheveled. His clothes are ill-fitting and often have tears in them. He has also become increasingly antisocial. When he has to talk to a co-worker, he is abrupt and rude. The employer's company handbook states that employees should have a neat appearance at all times. The handbook also states that employees should be courteous to each other."

Question: Can you fire this worker?

Don't rush to say "yes." The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers this example in the document it provides employers to help them address the psychiatric component of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Its answer: "The dress and co-worker courtesy rules are not job-related for the position in question. Therefore, rigid application of these rules to this employee would violate the ADA."

Robert McGarvey writes on business, psychology and management topics for several national publications. To reach him online with your questions or ideas, e-mail rjmcgarvey@aol.com.

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This article was originally published in the January 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: High Anxiety.

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