Lynne Curry: Blackmailer gives boss's son an offer he shouldn't take

Lynne Curry

Q. I work for my dad's business. Dad proudly calls me a "chip off the old block," expects me to inherit his place in the business and thinks I'll accomplish more than he has because "all this has been given to you."

The pressure's intense, especially because my dad is smart in ways I'm not and the other employees resent me. They think I have it easy because I'm the boss' son, but dad makes me do things he wouldn't ask of other employees, like working the last two three-day weekends.

When the pressure becomes too much, I act out -- drinking and gambling. As a result, I'm more than a hundred thousand dollars in the hole, loaned me by a man our company does business with. He's now blackmailing me, offering to keep quiet and also forgive some of my debt if I swing contracts his way. I'm tempted, but also worried someone may figure it out, particularly as the accounting and office employees watch my every move. If I take this way out and it backfires, how do I protect my dad and the business?

A. You can't. Because you're a gambler who wants to hide what he's done, this blackmailer's offer appears enticing. Accepting the offer would move you from reckless to dishonest. If you want to protect your dad and his business, call the blackmailer's bluff. He loses his leverage the moment you let your dad know the truth.

Although your past behavior will disappoint your dad, he'll be more hurt if you cheat or slide further into debt and alcoholism. My guess -- your dad's desire includes helping you succeed as much as it does ensuring his business lives on through you. If he knew the pressure you feel under or the price you now pay, he'd want things different. Talk with him so the two of you can make needed changes -- in his dream or your behavior.

Q. One of our employees went out on medical leave three months after being hired. When we asked, "When can we expect you back?" she said, "I don't know." That was a month ago and when we called this morning, she again said, "I don't know." How long do we have to put up with this?

A. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act as Amended (ADAAA) requires employers to accommodate employees with medical conditions, and medical leave may be a reasonable accommodation, employers have an out when an accommodation unreasonably imposes an undue hardship. This decision requires an individual analysis into the employee's disability and her job's essential functions.

While the ADAAA doesn't define the amount of leave time an employer needs to give a disabled employee, multiple court rulings state leaves of absence cannot be indefinite. This does not, however, mean the employee needs to give a guaranteed return date as this might impose an unfair hardship on the employee.

Employers shouldn't terminate employees without contacting them in writing to ask for a return-to-work date and whether they'll need a reasonable accommodation on their return. Employers should also consider whether the employee is protected under other laws, such as workers' compensation or the Family and Medical Leave Act, before making any decisions about the employee's employment.

A recent Eighth Circuit ruling, Peyton v. Fred's Stores, noted that an employee must demonstrate she will be able to return to her job and provide her employer an idea when she will be able to return. If your employee can't provide these assurances, it supports the conclusion her continued leave request isn't reasonable and you can, after a reasonable time, say you can no longer accommodate her indefinite leave.

Dr. Lynne Curry is a management/employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Company Inc. Send your questions to her at Follow Lynne on Twitter @lynnecurry10 or through


Lynne Curry