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What can I do when an employee lies down on the job?

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in Human Resources,The HR Specialist Forum

What can I do about an employee who doesn’t sit upright in his chair in an ergonomically correct position? I don’t mean ordinary slouching; this guy practically lies down in his chair! When I catch him doing it, he straightens up, but then he goes right back to his original position. I have offered to provide any type of equipment that might help, but he doesn’t want anything. His main responsibilities involve talking on the phone and entering data. As the person in charge of workplace safety, I’m trying to prevent any injury claims. Can he be reprimanded or forced to comply? Any suggestions?—Tammy, CA

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Tammy, CA October 13, 2009 at 3:52 pm


Thank you for your comments. You obviously have H.R. experience and/or training and understand my predicament. We have already had ergonomic-related WC claims and particularly in California they can be very costly. Our insurer requires that employees are continuously trained on ergonomics. Signing a waiver is not an option and wouldn’t hold water. I will take your advice. Thanks again


Anonymous October 12, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Maybe follow the above suggestions with a hint toward the fact that he is expected to use more professional posture when visitors are in the building/office etc.


Jerry Ballard October 9, 2009 at 11:29 am

This all boils down to whether the employee is in view of the public and whether his performance is up to standards. If he is not in public view and he is getting the job done then you can share a preference for him to sit up but disciplining him is going to be difficult.


John October 7, 2009 at 9:46 am

I agree with Sarah. I had a job once that allowed me to lay on a sofa while I worked. I was the #1 saleperson in the company. I found I communicated better with customers in that very relaxed position. I really doubt there’s a safety issue here unless the chair slips out from under him. If his posture was hurting his back he wouldn’t sit that way in the first place. It sounds to me as though you just don’t like what you see and it bothers you. Get over it and focus on his job performance.


Sarah October 7, 2009 at 8:18 am

Can’t you just have him sign a waiver that any injuries resulting from his posture are his responsibility and then leave him alone? Add in that you’ve spoken with him regarding the safety issues and the offer of a different chair but if this is how he is most comfortable and productive then leave him alone. Don’t be so rigid.


Dale October 6, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Is he disruptive? Is the public able to observe him at his workstation? Is he not doing his job? How is his performance? Is he meeting the performance standards for the position? Does he make errors? Too many error? Perhaps he does his best work slouched over like that … Focus on any performance-related issues. Document that you have talked to him about his posture, but regardless of it, you would undoubtedly still be responsible for any WC injuries. “Catch” him when he is sitting upright as requested (rather than always catching him reclined) and when you catch him sitting upright, complement him to reinforce the positive behavior.


Ellen October 6, 2009 at 4:10 pm

You might want to check with your HR before going down that path and make sure they will back you up. As frustrating as it is, you may just have to leave it at documenting that you provided training and solicited feedback from the employee.


Donna October 6, 2009 at 4:04 pm

I would treat it the same way I would any other unsafe work practice that someone has. Start with providing training materials that explain to the employee how hard this is on their back. If they continue, I would document it with a note that says you have offered to provide a different chair or whatever may be required to help with their comfort. You could explain to them that if they are doing this because they are tired, they are responsible to come to work in good condition and will need to change this. Give them a space on the documentation to write a response so you can show that you solicited their feedback about the problem. If they continue, I would take them through the steps of your handbook and have it result in termination if they don’t comply.


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