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Document warnings to chronically late worker

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in Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Employers expect employees to get to work on time. Occasional problems with traffic congestion, accidents, car trouble or other events sometimes make employees late, but chronic tardiness is another thing altogether.

Most employers track tardiness. They should do more, by documenting that they told the employee that being late is unacceptable.

That can happen in several ways—in person, via e-mail (if the employee uses a computer and has Internet access) and in annual or other performance reviews. Then follow up to see whether the behavior improves. Often it does, temporarily. Then it’s back to the same old problem—late arrivals and all the disruption that follows.

Your documentation will prove its value if you fire the employee and she sues for some kind of discrimination. If you can show you let the employee know about your concerns and the consequences, rest assured she would have a hard time winning her case.

Recent case: Allison Jeffrey was often late for work. Her bosses warned her often. Each time, she began arriving promptly … for a while. Then it was back to the same old pattern.

Shortly after Jeffrey announced she was pregnant, she was again tardy by almost an hour. Her employer fired her for excessive tardiness.

Jeffrey then sued, alleging she had really been fired because she was pregnant.

The problem for her case was that her employer was prepared to show it would have fired her—and any other employee with a similar attendance record—whether she was pregnant or not. The employer had plenty of evidence to back up its contention that Jeffrey had been warned and counseled about her behavior long before she announced her pregnancy. The court dismissed the case. (Jeffrey v. Met Logistics, No. 07-CV-3301, ND IL, 2009)

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