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Tighten up attendance policies, or get ready for an unemployment comp hit

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

Here’s added incentive to have crystal-clear attendance policies: Employees who are terminated for violating unclear or confusing attendance rules may end up collecting unemployment compensation payments.

Here’s why: Former employees can successfully argue that they were terminated through no fault of their own if they can show that the attendance policy was difficult to understand and comply with.

Recent case: Danielle Bates worked for Airborne Express and hurt her back at work. She then got workers’ compensation benefits until her employer let her return to a light-duty job she could safely perform.

At the time, Airborne warned her that she had to follow the company’s attendance policy. It stipulated that absences would be counted against her unless she provided a medical excuse.

Bates missed several shifts due to back pain, which she said was associated with her on-the-job injury. She got doctor’s notes stating that she had missed work because of back pain. Airborne then fired Bates because, it said, the notes should have stated that she was “incapacitated.” However, written attendance rules only mentioned medical documentation and didn’t specify which kind.

The court concluded Bates hadn’t been terminated for cause. Therefore, she was eligible for unemployment compensation benefits. (Bates v. Airborne Express, No. 2009-CA-37, Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second Appellate District, 2010)

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