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Poke holes in your absence policy before a court does

by on
in Employee Benefits Program,Firing,Human Resources

Issue: How consistently do you treat employee absences?

Risk: Many organizations' attendance policies, inadvertently or not, include legally risky doublespeak.

Action: Examine your policy, looking for contradictions and inconsistencies like the ones cited in the case below.

It may be time to put your absence policy on a diet.

Why? Too many absence policies are weighed down by special clauses attaching varying conditions on whom the policy applies to and when it applies.

This can lead to inconsistent application of your policy by punishing certain employees for absences, yet letting others skate by. Plaintiff's attorneys and courts will feast on such inconsistencies.

Advice: A vital part of any attendance policy is to set clear, objective discipline criteria, and then train your supervisors to never waver from them.

Recent case: Joe Callahan was fired after his third unexcused absence of the year. His employer's policy called for written warnings after the first and second absences in a 12-month period, then firing after the third.

Callahan applied for unemployment benefits, but the employer challenged it, arguing that he wasn't eligible because he was fired for violating company policy.

Result: The court granted Callahan his benefits, pointing out that the employer's absence policy was chock full of contradictions and inconsistencies.

Three examples: 1) The employer would decide on a "case by case" basis which unexcused absences counted; 2) It said "senior employees with exemplary attendance records" wouldn't be strictly held to the absence policy, but it didn't even define the term "senior employees." 3) The policy wasn't consistently enforced. (New England Wooden Ware Corp. v. Commissioner of the Department of Employment & Training, No. 03-P-106, Mass. App., 2004)

For a copy of our free report, How to Solve Your Absentee Problem, which includes tips for front-line supervisors, go to www.hrspecialist.net/ handbooks.

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