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Tighten up your attendance policy or risk unemployment comp hit

by on
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: In many states, 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: Airborne Express employee Danielle Bates hurt her back at work. She 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 said 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 provided notes from her doctor 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, 2010)

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