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What to do about new rule: Mandatory dismissal for tardies

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in The HR Specialist Forum

"My boss has told all supervisors we must terminate anyone who is late for work, no matter what. But common sense tells me that some situations just can't be avoided (late trains, traffic jams, delayed school openings), and I know we're going to lose some good employees along with some slackers. What can I do to stop this policy from being implemented?"—Ingrid

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

jdd December 18, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Tardiness is as bad was absences. Spell out a progressive disciplinary – 1st verbal; 2nd written, 3rd suspension and 4th termination. Have each employe sign off on the policy. Employees should not allowed to hold hostage their employers


ECP February 6, 2009 at 12:08 pm

How does this policy open the employer up to lawsuits? Aren’t most non-union employees employed “at will”. I thought at-will employees could be terminated for any reason at any time so long as the employee’s civil rights aren’t being violated.


Nick February 4, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Not sure how so many can agree with Kathy. There’s nothing illegal about firing people the first time that they are late. If it’s illegal, can anyone quote the law that’s being broken? If the policy is enforced equally as of the effective date, then you’ve done nothing illegal. Morale is one issue, but legality is a completely separate issue. It’s not as if the policy has one standard for white people and a more stringent standard for minorities.

That being said, a zero tolerance policy for tardiness is a ridiculous idea (but completely legal).

As for your boss, it shouldn’t be too hard to explain why this is a bad idea, unless he’s a knucklehead.


Carol February 3, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Is your boss aware of the cost to replace employees? Is tardiness rampant at your company? How late is considered tardy? What does your employee handbook / policy say will be done is an employee is late?

Diane, DR, and Green all make very good points. It seems that your boss has a bug up his/her derrier about tardiness. There have to be other ways to address the issue rather than arbitrarily firing anyone who is late.

If you have legal counsel, get him/her involved. I can’t imagine that your lawyer will agree with your boss’s decision.


J. Green January 29, 2009 at 4:11 pm

We had a 15 year employee be late for this first time this week because he lost power at his house. His knowledge is invaluable and it would be a hardship to do to him what your policy states for our company. Sure, he is replaceable but his knowledge is not. We track it and address it if it is an issue and we have terminated for excessive absentism. If it is becoming an issue, suggest sitting down with EE’s to discuss it and enforce the policy (if there is one). Trying to replace people and to train new people is a very costly process. Is it worth it? Your probably the one that has to do most of the work for it. If you don’t maybe should consider talking to him about this. Your are an advocate for the employer and also the employees. Sometimes the HR person is the only voice of reason because every one else may be too scared to speak up. Your boss may get mad if you speak to him about it but at least your opinion is heard.


Kathleen January 28, 2009 at 4:09 pm

I also agree with Kathy. We have a 3 strikes and you’re out policy. That seems to work for us.


D R January 28, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Are the employees aware of this policy? Does your employee handbook have a progressive discipline policy? What happens if this is a good employee, with good performance, nothing unusual in his/her record? This is a can of legal issues. I will bring that up to your supervisor. If you were to make an exemption one day, another legal water for the other who got terminated.

How bad is tardiness? Is it really an issue? By how many minutes? What is your population like? Is it in the job description to be on time? Is it necessary for the job?

I don’t have a cookie cut answer for you, but questions you should present to your boss. A lawsuit is no joke.


Sarah January 28, 2009 at 8:54 am

I agree with Kathy. This sounds like lawsuit heaven. I also see the morale and productivity going down in your office as well. You may lose the good people simply because they won’t work in a dictatorship.


Diane in Ohio January 28, 2009 at 7:37 am

Unfortunately, you may have to lose a few good employees to get the point across that we should be judging employees on the quality of their work, not their ability to get to work on time. It’s a hard sell from the HR dept. that a few minutes here and there aren’t important. Explain the cost of training and the learning curve w/having to replace these employees, especially if they are in a skill-trade.


Kathy January 27, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Your place of business will have some hefty lawsuits. You just can’t fire people if their late. You have to show it’s been a continuous, ongoing problem and document everything!


kim January 27, 2009 at 5:19 pm

What happens if your boss is late?


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