Employers sometimes come up with some very specific rules for when and how employees must call in to let their bosses know they will miss work. Sometimes those rules become contracts.
Recent case: Lynn Hovind worked as a home health aide for Bristol Place, a health care provider. After she began working for Bristol Place, Hovind was required to sign a document spelling out how to call in sick. Essentially, the rules required employees to call their supervisor four hours before a scheduled shift, if possible.
Hovind was fired a day after she asked for 17 days off for bronchitis.
Hovind claimed she followed the rules by calling her supervisor, who told her to fill out a form asking for leave. She said her firing violated a contractual right ensured by the rule on calling in sick.
A court let the case go forward to trial. It said the fact that Hovind received the rules after beginning work, had to sign them and continued working after doing so was enough to create a contract under Minnesota law. That meant she could continue her breach-of-contract lawsuit. (Hovind v. Bristol Place, No. 08-597, DC MN, 2008)
Final note: Not sure whether your rules are contractual? Have your attorney review them. He or she may suggest including language explaining that the rules are not a binding contract.
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