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Carpenter's Apprentice unable to physically do job (pregnant!)4/16/14
I do very high end cabinet and millwork installation with just one helper. The work can be very physically demanding. If mistakes are made they are very expensive.
I took a woman on as an apprentice a little less than a year ago. Though I would not typically have accepted someone with as little experience of her, her enthusiasm and integrity were great qualifications.
Today she told me that she is three weeks pregnant.
I am looking for a lawyer to consult, of course, but am curious about others' experiences with workers' pregnancies or other physical changes that precluded them from being able to fulfill their job duties.
NFWay wrote: "Given her general incompetence I say she should run for elected office."
I just love the word liberals use as a pejorative against producers: "Discriminate".
I maintain "discrimination" is the very essence of operating a business at a profit assuring the very best, brightest and 'results oriented' employees..
If a business man choses females so be it.
Legislation designed to protect unproductive members of our society will only exacerbate their condition.
The idea business can be forced to assume the cost, expense and responsibility of pregnancy without any of the benefits is like saying "if you like your cabinet maker, you can keep your cabinet maker."
Back in the day when I was much younger, I ran a full service restaurant. I had a woman who was pregnant and part of her job was to be able to move 50lb cubes of grease. She was able to do it until her 8th month.
My opinion as a current shop owner now is that there should be basic requirements for the job. For example, lift 70 lbs and move it 20 feet. If she is unable to perform these activities, which are part of the job, I think that you have a leg to stand on to lay her off. You may also have a case of ADA compliance but it wouldn't apply in this case as you have under 10 employees.
I think your idea of seeing a lawyer is the best.
Along with Jim's policy comments a doctor determines when an employee can and can't work for medical reasons so if she meets the test get a release from the doctor that says she can perform the lift 70 lbs. without assitance and move it 20 feet task.
Regarding the 2nd and 3rd posts, no wonder small size woodshops are going the way of the dodo. The only way they will change is as the frightened old white men die off, mumbling about 'guvmint and wimmen and immy-grants...'
The 21st Century started sometime ago. Woodshops have even accepted the digital world of Cad Cam, but no splitails, please. We are doomed.
ChrisBuilt - You have two things going on: An employee that is not quite working out and sounds as if you should be replacing, and an employee that is pregnant.
If they are not working out, you need to let her know and find a replacement. The pregnancy complicates it somewhat, so the lawyer will help you be fair and within the law. The difficult part will be telling her that after all this time, she needs to go. Mention that you both gave it your best shot, but it isn't working out....
If it is any consolation I let a guy go after 1-1/2 years of hoping it would all work out. He took it well, and was relieved, in fact. We still talk 10 years later and respect each other and appreciate the fact we both tried our best.
Along the lines of an employee not working out. Once a employee is hired, you know within a couple of weeks if it is working out or not. The only thing is that you have to tell yourself that you made a mistake in hiring this person. So many times I have seen someone hang onto an employee because they wouldn't admit till much later (and many payroll dollars later) that they didn't hire the right person.
My approach is to find someone that I think is the best person for the job. At the three week mark, I make a decision. Do I want to spend the rest of my life with this employee or not? If the answer is no, terminate and move on. It will save you money in the long run .
Example: I had a front office person who gave me three weeks notice. Advertised and had over 12 interviews. Picked the best person and 2 weeks in I knew it wasn't working, so I let her go. Hired another person from my interviews and at the three week mark, I knew it wasn't working again. This time I reinterviewed 3 people from the first interviews. Hired one of them and within 2 weeks I new she was a keeper. She has been a great help and I can live with her for a long time. I make mistakes all the time. When I let the first two go, I explained to them that I had made a mistake in hiring them as the job was just not for them.
By the way, if you do it before 4 weeks, they are still considered a probationary employee.
I'm with Kilgore on this one. The replies earlier in the thread made me cringe. Chrisbuilt: what do you think your employee would say about your abilities as a teacher and boss? Or just as a human being? I understand that talent for this kind of work is required, but so is training. Have you ever successfully trained anyone to do anything? Are you the kind of boss that an employee can look up to? Are you fair, open, and competent? Can you communicate your needs clearly and take some responsibility when things go wrong? How can you be so sure that her failure isn't your fault? As for the physical aspects of the job, she's been with you a year. If she couldn't lift and tote that should have been apparent from the git-go.
I've had a number of women working on my shop floor over the years, and I found that they all had sufficient physical strength to do the job, and that a couple of them were much stronger than I am. I haven't seen any reason to discriminate when hiring.
The pregnancy is a whole different issue. You are making the right move by consulting a lawyer.
I find it interesting that she felt it necessary to tell you about the pregnancy so early on. Many people wait until the end of the first trimester to announce this, and even later to their employers for fear of discrimination.
Perhaps she too is looking for an out? As an employee in the past, I've known better than my boss did if a job wasn't working out. She might feel some obligation to stay if you have invested a lot of training time in her.
Either way, you are in a legal minefield, the lawyer is a good idea (unfortunately).
As to the first 3 replies, well, "PLEASE DON'T FEED THE TROLLS".
I hope you have a good employee manual that spells out the requirements of employment. Your timing couldn't be worse, as it's going to be really tough to convince anyone the firing is not pregnancy related after her working for you for just less than a year and you just figured out she is not working out. I'm thinking your hands will be tied here.
"...though her reliability and communication is generally great."
There you go...
Congratulate her on her pregnancy and wish her all the best. She's your employee and it's illegal to let her go based on her current physical condition.
Tell her you're expecting her to do her best and keep up with the current workload until her doctor advises otherwise.
Ask her (in writing) for immediate verification of positive pregnancy tests. If she fails to provide this you may be free to terminate her for other reasons.
This employee may not be working out as far as woodworking is concerned but she certainly comprehends her employee rights.
Couple of thoughts.
Get a doctors release to perform the task she was hired for.
Don't assume shes setting you up.
can you not put her in the office or re-assign her and grow the business ?
Trying to avoid sexism, but unable to resist a bit of humor, send her out to do some marketing. Who would say no to a pregnant woman? Lemons, lemonade, etc.
I don't know how many of you responding are fathers of young children, but I am, and I know what a severe toll the process of growing a new human inside your body can be. There is less physical energy/ability as well as bouts of metal spaciness.
Paul Downs, I appreciate you asking the tough questions (for me to ask myself):
My answers to most of those questions are positive, and affirmed by the feedback that I have solicited and received.
I have never trained someone with this level of (lack of) prior experience before.
To reiterate my OQ, I am a cabinet installer and finish carpenter who generally works with just one assistant.
In my experience things work best when setup in steps. An apprenticeship generally has 8 periods, high school has 12 grades, I hear some German apprenticeships last 15 years. It is no coincidence that Germans are some of the best craftsman in the world, doctors have 12 yr of medical training.
Yeah you might be skipping a step or 4.
I would look at what areas she does well with and backtrack to the areas she has trouble with from there. The problem area will always be earlier.
This may be an area where she needs practice. For instance a guy/girl may have trouble with filing formica. You may have them practice filing formica but still not fix the problem. So you then have to get them to accept the idea that you have to rout the edge with a bevel bit. Maybe he will say of course and that is that. Or he will say well in the last shop we never did that. So you show them how much easier and faster it is to rout it with the bevel router first. Maybe he will say of course and that will be that. Or maybe they continue to be slow or wreck product so then you look earlier and ask them what are they thinking about when they laminate so they say I'm worried about ruining the laminate so that tells you what the earlier problem is, which means they are not comfortable working with the product. So get some scrap laminate and have them get it ready to file. Then you have them F it up in every way they can think of, then you ask them are you comfortable working with laminate now, they say well better, so you say ok do it for a while longer, until they are comfortable working with laminate. Then have them do it right still on scrap lots of it until they can do it perfect. Then have them do it for real.
You go to the drawer bank and you show them what a properly adjusted bank looks like, then have them adjust the drawers. If they still have trouble look at where they are having trouble as it will always be earlier. Look at where she is having trouble and zero in on the problem. Looking earlier you may find that they do not know what the word parallel mean or the word perpendicular means. They don't what efficient means, not the word but the length of time it should take to do this.
Most of the time you just show them once and have them do it once and move on especially if it is not production.
Which gives you a hint that new people should be given tasks with lots of repetition.
Also I guarantee once you show someone how to do something they will come up with a new and improved method of doing it. Once I showed a worker how to glue up some pyramids we did, on a regular basis, with packing tape. At some point he decided it would be much easier to spread the glue if he just diluted it with 50% water, this always happens so expect it and look for it and correct it.
But the key is steps. Donít overwhelm them and donít underwhelm them.
You have to fire them.
You may say that Is too much trouble too which I say then try doing everything yourself. But once they got it you no longer have to do that job.
The characteristic of a good trainer is that they can communicate well, speak in terms people will understand, and are cheerful. Donít discount the latter as it is the most important
@ pat gilbert: excellent advice. I will say that our success with new hires went up considerably when we started actually training them, and the person who did that was someone who liked to do it and put a lot of effort into it. The last three hires we made were all productive within six months, before then it would take 2 to 3 years, and we had a 50% failure rate.
You get what you pay for - training is a cost, but good workers are what you end up with.
I did the same thing as training guys thinking they would get it in record time and that doesn't work. If you need someone that you need instant results then hire someone with 5+ years. It sounds like she really wants to learn but it may be going so fast she just can't pick it up. Everyone has a different pace that they learn at so one size doesn't fit all. Find her strengths and work on those and she should pick up the rest. You know there is all different was of moving material not just brute strength so maybe use panel carts , jacks ,etc. For her being pregnant, work with her and tell her what your concerns are. Most woman can handle more than men can when it comes to body changes. I have had guys that sneeze once and they are off for 2 days.Remember safety always comes first. Good luck
I am a 28 year old NYC union Carpenter 3rd year apprentice. I worked until I was 9 months and 1 week pregnant. I was lifting heavy up until 8 months. A body in motion stays in motion.