Ask Leslie: What Do We Do If We Think An Older Employee May Be Losing His Abilities?

By Leslie Zieren, The McCalmon Group, Inc.

We have an older employee, Clark, who is 75. Clark is making more and more mental mistakes on a regular basis. Perhaps he is losing his cognitive abilities or has some other mental impairment. What can we do?

Pew Research Center reports that in the past 35 years, the number of older Americans still working – by choice or necessity - has doubled. The Center also reports that more than a third of the workforce – 41 million workers – are Baby Boomers – born from 1946-1964.

This means your challenge is a common one that could become even more common – a challenge that should be managed in a non-discriminatory manner.

It is always a good idea to start with performance facts – without speculation about age or medical conditions.

·      Have you reviewed with the performance issues with Clark?

·      Did you document the issue, the effect on the operation of the organization, and possible ways to correct it? Did you discuss this with him and listen to his response?

·      Has Clark been given ample opportunity to improve, knowing your expectations?

·      If, as some point, Clark declares he has a physical or mental impairment and asks for a reasonable accommodation, which may be expressed in any way (ex. "I have "X" so I need a little help..." or "I have "Y" so I need more time..."), then engage in the interactive process to determine what reasonable accommodation is available to allow Clark to perform all the essential functions of his job. The interactive process would involve Clark's healthcare provider.

If a reasonable accommodation is identified by the healthcare provider – for example – shifting Clark's working hours to begin two hours earlier– then make the accommodation and observe if it is sufficient.

If not, re-engage in the process. Sometimes the first solution is not effective, but the interactive process is case-by-case – not a one-and-done event.

Jack McCalmon, Leslie Zieren, and Emily Brodzinski are attorneys with more than 50 years combined experience assisting employers in lowering their risk, including answering questions, like the one above, through the McCalmon Group's Best Practices Help Line. The Best Practice Help Line is a service of The McCalmon Group, Inc. Your organization may have access to The Best Practice Help Line or a similar service from another provider at no cost to you or at a discount. For questions about The Best Practice Help Line or what similar services are available to you via this Platform, call 888.712.7667.

If you have a question that you would like Jack McCalmon, Leslie Zieren, or Emily Brodzinski to consider for this column, please submit it to Please note that The McCalmon Group cannot guarantee that your question will be answered. Answers are based on generally accepted risk management best practices. They are not, and should not be considered, legal advice. If you need an answer immediately or desire legal advice, please call your local legal counsel.



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