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Lynne Curry: Employee sees his disability as a game changer

Lynne Curry

Q. We were in the middle of a final meeting firing a problem employee for poor attendance and performance problems when he announced he had a disability. He said he'd been hiding a multiple sclerosis condition that resulted in his poor attendance and lack of focus.

We told him we were sorry. He said we needed to realize the Americans with Disabilities Act required we reasonably accommodate him by giving him the opportunity to fix things. Does the ADA require we rescind the termination and give him another chance?

A. Although your employee considers his disability a game changer, he lost his chance by waiting until the end to tell you he needed help.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's guidance summary, "Applying Performance and Conduct Standards to Employees with Disabilities," employers do "not have to rescind discipline (including a termination) or an evaluation warranted by poor performance."

This general guidance doesn't provide your company an absolute guarantee. If you "should have known" a disability created your employee's attendance and performance problems, you might have needed to accommodate him. If you suspected his disability, you may want to place him on unpaid administrative leave and ask an attorney to assess how you've handled this employee.

Q. When I first started job hunting, I felt like a little kid in a candy store looking at all the exciting jobs advertised. I enjoy my current job but I'm ready to advance in job title and duties.

Then came the crash landing. Despite sending my resume to dozens of prospective employers in the last three weeks, I've not landed an interview.

Interviews are where I excel and what have landed me my past two jobs. I've got a decent resume but since I've moved every year or two, some employers get nervous thinking I'm only looking for the next step up. That's what I've heard from the couple prospective employers who were willing to tell me why I didn't make the final cut for an interview.

A. You want the right job. Employers want the right employee and don't want to waste time interviewing individuals they're not going to hire. If your resume doesn't stand out -- given that you're looking for a job more advanced than the one you now have -- you need a new strategy: a killer cover letter or email.

A cover email can work because most hiring managers scan applicant emails before opening and deciding to print or file resumes.

Killer cover letters share the following characteristics:

They're concise and powerful. Start with a strong opening statement demonstrating your interest in the job and then cut to the chase.

They're targeted. Don't waste your time with a cover email addressed to "Dear Hiring Manager" -- the manager won't. Address the manager by name.

Cover statements stand out because they address a specific job with specifics. Let other applicants write cover letters clearly based on Internet-provided templates. Generic cover letters cause the hiring manager to wonder whether the applicant can generate an original thought. Show you care enough about this job not to take a short cut with a task that requires serious thought.

Highlight the three to four statements that show you're the best possible hire, in concrete terms. Don't cover your strongest points with fluff.

Address your resume's problems without bringing them up by dispelling them with a different way of interpreting them. For example, can you honestly say your earlier moves provided you with the right combination of varied experiences to benefit this specific employer -- and that only a position like this one would lead you to leave your current company?

Finally, close strongly by quoting a highly placed manager in your current company who says you've done an outstanding job in your current position. This type of letter earns interviews.

Dr. Lynne Curry is a management/employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Company Inc. Send your questions to her at lynne@thegrowthcompany.com You can follow Lynne on Twitter @lynnecurry10 or through www.workplacecoachblog.com


Lynne Curry
THE WORKPLACE