Can a manager ask, ‘Is everything OK at home?’

Q. If an employee makes four mistakes in a short period of time, can the employer ask, ‘Is everything OK at home?’ This person does office work, not factory, so it’s not a safety issue.

A. It seems the wrong question, and worse, one that might solicit personal information you’d rather not have and can’t do anything about. The correct question is something closer to, “We’ve discovered a number of errors recently, and this isn’t like your normal work. Is there anything you need from us to help you minimize the number of errors made?” This will allow the employee to admit she needs training, was just tired or some other reason.

Of course, if the employee is having a medical or other issue that might benefit from a leave or other accommodation, you may receive a request to accommodate her. By doing so, you meet your obligations under the ADA.