Q. One of our employees came in two hours late today, without an advance call. When he got here, he told his supervisor that he needed “school leave” for the morning. Can we discipline him for being late?
A. It depends. Minnesota law requires employers to grant leave for school conferences and other school activities for an employee’s child that cannot be scheduled during nonwork hours. The law also provides, however, that an employee should give reasonable notice of a foreseeable leave and make a reasonable effort to schedule the leave so as not to disrupt your business operations.
Before you discipline this employee, try to determine whether the need for leave was, in fact, “foreseeable” and whether the employee made an effort to schedule the leave outside of work hours. If you determine it was foreseeable and no such effort was made, it would seem reasonable to grant the leave but document with the employee that the notice of leave was not proper and more notice is required in the future. A more aggressive, but still defensible, action might be to deny the request for leave and discipline for unexcused absence if the employee has not satisfied these basic requirements for obtaining protected leave.