Q&A: The trouble with helping needy employees


Q&A: The trouble with helping needy employees

A hard-working veterinary assistant at my practice is having money troubles and turning to payday loans to make ends meet. Our salaries are fair and reasonable for our area and our economy. I'm worried this is a poor personal financial decision on his part. What should I do?
Jan 01, 2011

Assuming this employee is not a partial practice owner, you have no responsibility to take any action, says Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Karl Salzsieder, JD, owner of Salzsieder Consulting and Legal Services in Longview, Wash. But you could be at risk if you offer advice that ends in more problems for the employee.

For example, if the employee comes to you about his financial struggles and you suggest a solution that results in a bad outcome, you've created increased liability for the employee. In law, this is sometimes referred to as "detrimental reliance." In other words, while you have no responsibility in the employee's financial matters, you can develop responsibility by offering advice or information that does more harm than good.

Another issue to consider is that your caring nature could create problems in the future if other team members experience similar financial issues. Making a contribution or loan to the employee could create an inequality in employee benefits, and it could create an obligation for you to do the same thing for other employees if the situation arises again. Are you prepared to do this for everyone?

As a practice owner, the success of your business depends on your team members, and you should make every effort to take care of them at work. But in matters like personal finances, the best solution may be to do nothing, Dr. Salzsieder says.