Existing attendance policy ignored? Start enforcing rules now

If your managers have been less than consistent about enforcing attendance policies, suddenly sticking to the rules could prompt lawsuits.

But you can start enforcing the rules now without triggering trouble if you do it the right way.

  • Distribute your attendance policy to every employee, with a memo explaining that you will enforce the rules. Get each employee to sign a copy for the personnel file.
  • Conduct an attendance review with each employee. Explain any mandatory discipline for unexcused absences.
  • Review each absence to make sure you haven’t counted any incorrectly (such as FMLA-covered absences). Tell all employees exactly how many absences they have incurred and how many are left.
  • Finally, issue a warning when any employee is one strike away from disciplinary action.

Recent case: Cecil Hawkins, who is black, was fired from his job as an egg carton mold-maker when he accumulated eight unexcused absences within a rolling 12-month period. The absenteeism policy had been in place for many years but had only recently been enforced by a new HR manager.

Hawkins sued, alleging that Caucasian males hadn’t been fired for the same number of absences. But the company was able to show those employees accumulated their absences before the new manager started enforcing the rules. The court dismissed the case, reasoning that the company had announced it would be following the rules strictly and even gave all employees a chance to dispute each attendance strike. (Hawkins v. Pactiv, No. 5:05-CV-417, MD GA, 2007)