Volunteer Denies Care of Child with Disabilities

Article excerpt

In today's complicated world, ethical decisions aren't always black or white; options often fall into gray areas, and it takes careful thought to determine the best step to take. Readers responded to this situation posed by PERSONNEL JOURNAL.

THE DILEMMA:

* You are HR manager at a small company. For the past two years, your organization has allowed child visitation on Fridays during the summer months. Your department created a center where the children can participate in planned activities, watch movies and read books. A volunteer from the community watches the children, so the program costs the company little. So far, the policy has been successful: Employees save on child-care costs, breakdowns in child care are less likely to cause employee absences, and they're able to remain more focused on their jobs. The problem is this: Recently, an employee began bringing his child who has a mental disability and requires extra attention. The child doesn't pose any threat to the other children, but the volunteer who works in the facility says that if the child continues to attend, she'll quit. If she does, you're unsure that you'll find someone else who's willing to run the facility every Friday free of charge. What should you do?

READERS RESPOND:

You already have a problem: This "volunteer" is really an employee according to the Department of Labor's Wages and Hours unit, and should have received pay all this time. It's time the company decided if it's cost effective to continue the center with a paid (and preferably trained) staffer.

Linda Konstan Senior Consultant, HR & Employee Benefits Find/SVP New York, New York

* First, I'd tell the volunteer that I understand her concerns; however, I didn't appreciate the ultimatum. I'd ask if there were any assistance we could provide that would make it easier to accommodate the child and the volunteer. If this didn't handle the problem, I'd let the volunteer go.

Secondly, I'd pose the argument that it would not only be discriminatory, but a poor business decision if we didn't allow the child into the center. …