Need advice

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by pete, May 11, 2002.

  1. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    All right everyone, I need your advice on this one. Along with the many problems I have inherited at my new job I have a 75 year old dishwasher. She has been with the Club for over 28 years, and has kind of become a joke around the place. She only works Wed., Thur., and Friday during lunch (not too busy) from 11:30am to 3:30pm, that is if she shows up on time, or if her daughter isn't taking her to BINGO. She is slow as molasses, and needs to take a break quite often as her back bothers her. The first time I met her she asked me point-blank if I was going to fire her because of her age. I told her I wasn't firing anyone at the time, as it wasn't my intention of "cleaning house" unless I felt it was neccessary. She then asked me if I wanted to know how old she was. I told her repeatedly that it was not any of my business, but she told me anyway.
    She is nice enough, and harmless enough, and even gets a little work done, but she is definately not even close to the standard I would set for my employees. I am also afraid of her injuring herself or others (yesterday she walked throught the kitchen with knives pointing straight forward and almost stabbed someone as they rounded the corner). I hate to come across as the "evil bastard" that fired her after 28 years. I am also concerned about the legal ramifications, since there is obviously an age thing involved. She made it quite clear that she really needs this job, and I am sure that no one else would hire her at that age. Do I do the evil, yet business-like thing and let her go, or do I make an exception to my rules and standards, and do the decent thing and keep her on? And if I do let her go, do I open the door for legal action to be taken against me and the club? Part of me says that there is no harm in keeping her on, but the other part of me says that I am throwing away the club's money by keeping her on. Any advice on this one would be helpful.
     
  2. chefboy2160

    chefboy2160

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    Hey Pete , I had a similar situation . An 82 year old waitress who we called granny . She could handle 3 tables near the cooks window in a busy 24 hour coffee shop with an average of 1000 covers per shift . yeah she was slow and she got in the way at times but she was an institution there . My advice to you is to let this one slide , shes only workin 12 hours a week so the money shouldnt be that important . Also there would probably be bad feelings if you did ax her , not to mention maybe some legal issues . I know its hard to bend your principles but sometimes it needs to be done . Of course thats just my opinion .
    Douglas:D
     
  3. suzanne

    suzanne

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    My inclination would be to keep her on, but move her to a sit-down job where she has little opportunity to do harm to herself and others. It would have to be a "real" job, though -- one that needs to be done, just not at any particular rate of speed. Like silver polishing. I'm sure as you learn your new environment, you'll find something.

    If your ultimate decision is to let her go, though, make sure it is for cause, with plenty of documentation. Otherwise, you might leave yourself and the club open to the possibility of a discrimination suit. (I'm no lawyer, but on these matters I know you can't be too careful.)

    That takes time, but works for the best overall because it means you have a system to monitor and improve performance. First you need job descriptions for all jobs under you, based on what are reasonable tasks for each title. These would include clear standards of job performance, from acceptable to marginal to needing correction to unacceptable. Frequency of reviews, acceptable methods and time allowed for remediation, and actions to be taken if performance does not improve, are part of the system. Everyone has to be aware of their job description, and of the expected performance standards, and acknowledge in writing that they know. This is usually separate from the system by which you determine raises, especially if you are a union house. (But it all has to fit in with the union contract, then.)

    Since you're new there (BTW: congrats! have you moved house and home already?) it would be reasonable for you to create such a system if none exists, or tweak the system that IS there. That way, you can set the exact standards you want for your employees. Better for you, better for them. And fair to everyone.

    Hope this helps. (This is the kind of thing I would normally charge $100/hour for, but for you ... ;) )
     
  4. panini

    panini

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    Hey Pete,
    up until the 11:30 to 3:30, I thought you were talking about a piece of machinery. I was going to tell you if that machine has worked for 28 yrs. then I would keep it shined and pampered and feel fortunate when the light comes on. I think I would probably say the same for granny. If you are thinking about a liability problem then use your resources WC,ins. etc. Make your decisions and job descriptions in accordance to these. If they suggest moving from a standing job to sitting or something like that then it makes it real easy for you. As long as she is not a cancer or bad example to other employees I personally feel she needs to be sitting in the managers office watching TV for an hour a day. You won't be wasting money, I'm sure she's made enough for the property.:D
     
  5. brreynolds

    brreynolds

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    Pete:

    I can't advise on the "whether to fire" question. The others who've responded have given you the best word on that -- if the lady is important to business and morale, or has been "adopted" by the membership, or has had been a good employee in the past, those are good reasons to let her stay on if she's not harming anything. The schedule she's on -- light times at the club -- suggest that someone was deliberately finding something she could do without creating interference. Also, since you work in a club, the overall club management might have had reasons for keeping her on, and if you haven't already done so, you might try to get a little history on why someone who obviously isn't up to the rest of the staff's performance level is still around. (I'd say maybe they're trying to keep her off welfare, except you mention that she plays bingo.)

    As far as the "how to do it if you're going to do it" question, Suzanne's basically said it all. You can't fire her because she is old. You can fire her because she isn't performing according to standards. First, you have to have clear, provable standards. That means written job descriptions for each position, schedules that are clearly communicated to employees, and safety rules.

    Second, you ought to be able to demonstrate that the employee in question did not perform according to those standards, or violated some other clear, objective job rule. You need to have -- and document that you had (a memo to the personnel administrator or something similar) -- a meeting in which you point out what the employee did wrong, and give him or her a chance to correct the behavior within a specified period. In our office, we usually use 90 days; it's long enough either to demonstrate that the person who was warned got the message, or for them to get through an initial period of cleaned up behavior and get back to old habits.

    Finally, when you fire someone, it should be for the things you warned them about that weren't corrected. You should not add new stuff that might raise arguments about whether there were unstate, illegal reasons for the dismissal. (That is, unless you want to go through another counseling session on those things.)

    Of course, there are some things for which animmediate dismissal is generally pretty supportable -- theft, starting a fight with another employee or customer, and so on. But your employee doesn't sound like she's a candidate for one of these things.

    Of all the things you mentioned in your post, there was one that surprised me, because it strikes me as a firing offense under any circumstances -- failing to show up for scheduled employment. I lost all my sympathy for her when I got to that one. Every once in a while you meet, hear about, or read about someone who is working at a job well beyond normal retirement age. These folks usually are pretty conscientious employees. No matter why this woman has the job she's got, it seems to me that she shouldn't expect to keep it if she doesn't show up for it. It's one thing for her to be there and be inefficient, but to me it's quite another for her not to show up in the first place, when she's supposed to be there, unless it's for illness.
     
  6. isa

    isa

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    I like the idea of having her polish silverware or something like that. She would be out of the way, and it might be easier on her back.


    She could also fold napkins, fill salt shakers, sugar, prepare garnishes for drink, etc....
     
  7. jim berman

    jim berman

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    Pete,

    BRReynolds said it all.... Document, document, document! If, in fact, you terminate this person, you had better have hard documentation. However, given that, in your words, she seems harmless enough and isn't working during 'slam' time, what harm is there? Make it clear, however, to the other staff that her performance is the exception to the rule. Better be sure to have concise job descriptions on file for everybody... just in case! In Delaware, you must present a detailed job description and rate of pay for EVERY staff member. Also, to throw another twist at you, don't forget the "equal pay for equal work" parameter that exists in some states.
     
  8. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    You said it. She is an institution there. You are still the "new guy". Don't do anything for a while till you figure out how the place works before doing something rash like canning that nice old lady or changing her routine. Let her do what she does. Trying to "help" her might not be taken as help. And you could end up looking like a real schmuck.....
     
  9. chiffonade

    chiffonade

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    It all comes down to value. Tangible vs. Intangible.

    Would there be so much ill-will if you let her go that it could seriously damage morale and the overall atmosphere of the kitchen? This will translate to the bad mood sloshing out into the dining room. While dining out is 95% what's on the plate and 5% waitstaff, a turd in the punchbowl presents the same ratio and we wouldn't want that either.

    Unless you feel replacing her is imperative (like Shawtycat's cook who doesn't want to do prep work), don't topple the applecart. Scale back her duties or have her do something of perceived importance that will keep her busy and out of the way.
     
  10. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    I actually agree with everyone else about this situation. Don't fire the old gal! Find something to "promote" her to. But I wouldn't fire her.

    Jodi
     
  11. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for all the advice everyone. Not sure yet, what I am going to do, but I am leaning towards letting her stay on, as long as she can make it to her shifts on time.
     
  12. w.debord

    w.debord

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    I agree totally, don't fire her! Somehow it will backfire on you. But I would try to entice her into a different position so her back won't hurt (hint hint).

    How small is your club? Why isn't she working in the ladies locker room or in the main house as a bathroom attentant? Every club could use her somewhere you just need to look around. Can she do any office work like filing or answering the phones? Does your club send out all of it's laundry? Most don't ....let her wash and fold the locker room towels...or if all else fails give her an over all matience positon (to tidy up the place) cleaning walls, doors, floors, windows etc... but make this a step up that she wants. Anything else will make you look like the bad guy.

    You need to be there for a while before you cut people free. There's always dead weight and strings attached at clubs but when you know the politics you'll discover there's a reason.....like maybe she's the former maid of one of the members on the board....trust me there's always a reason clubs are not always run smartly or efficiently because that how THE MEMBERS want things, to never change. Change moves VERY slowly at clubs, you'll alienate yourself quickly if you make alot.
     
  13. chrose

    chrose

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    Pete I feel for ya brother I've been there. Mrs. Sickles.....but what we knew was that the job was really all she had in life. Sure she had all the other things to do like your lady, but the job was all that really mattered.
    There's more to life than getting the job done. I've been in your shoes, and the shoes I'm in now after my little health incident feel different. What I mean is that the job will get done whether she's there or not and will continue after she's gone and you're gone. So if she makes her shifts on time great, if not let it slide. Just don't count on her, but make a little room. If it brings a little happiness to an old lady than the **** with everything else, a little humanity goes a long way for all concerned.
     
  14. chefboy2160

    chefboy2160

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    chrose , you have said it all . sometimes I am ashamed to be a human being , but after reading your post I know we are not lost .
    Thank you for being so human .
    Doug
     
  15. chrose

    chrose

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    :blush:
     
  16. athenaeus

    athenaeus

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    After reading a couple of sentencies I knew that you would let her stay Pete.
    I know how frustrating things might become in the kitchen but when you think that what we know for sure about our future is that we will get old and "useless" things are becoming simpler to get a decision. :)

    Let's hope that we will be luckier than this lady and we won't be obliged to work when we get old but we will be playing with our grandchildren instead :)