An employer should have an attendance policy that must
be communicated to all employees so that its provisions can be enforced.
The policy should be in writing and included in the employee handbook.
Most important, it should be applied consistently. Employers may be
sued for discrimination if they penalize some employees for poor attendance,
but not others.
A formal, written policy clarifies the employer's viewpoint
and makes clear to employees at what point their poor attendance is
unacceptable and a cause for discipline. The policy should state how
many absences or instances of lateness are acceptable (and within
what period of time).
Excessive lateness and absenteeism are the most common
work rule violations and can be difficult to deal with.
A “no-fault” policy that grants employees a certain number
of late time for any reason eliminates the problem of evaluating excuses.
This policy allows employees leeway for traffic jams, unexpected errands,
and just being late. Any employee who goes beyond the entitlement
is then subject to discipline, no matter what the reason is for the
The best time to deal with the concept of lateness is
at the beginning of employment. At orientation, the supervisor or
human resources manager should explain and emphasize the organization's
policy on tardiness, the disciplinary steps that may be taken, and
the effect that excessive or chronic lateness will have on job evaluations
and possible promotions.
Monitoring work hours. It is difficult and tedious for employers to monitor an employee's
every move. If the layout of a particular workplace makes it difficult
for supervisors to know when employees are arriving or leaving or
how long they're taking for lunch, an employer may want to detail
procedures for supervisory monitoring of work hours. For instance,
if the organization uses a time clock, the procedures and rules governing
its use should be made clear.
Docking. It is a
common practice to “dock” nonexempt, hourly employees for lateness,
which simply means paying the employee only for time actually worked.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) allows employers to round starting and stopping time up or down
“to the nearest twelfth, tenth or quarter of an hour.” However, the
time must be averaged out over a specific period (e.g., a pay period)
so that employees are paid for all time actually worked. As long as
employees are fully compensated for all the time they actually work,
this practice will be accepted unless it is used in such a way that,
on average, employees are not properly compensated for all the time
they have actually worked.
Employers may not dock exempt employees' wages
due to lateness. The FLSA and most state laws prohibit reducing wages
for any exempt employees. However, employers may require exempt employees
to make up the missed time. If the Department of Labor becomes involved
due to an employer's docking of exempt employees, they may take away
exemptions for all employees in that class and require overtime to
be paid retroactively and prospectively toall in the exempt
status. It is better to handle lateness problems with exempt employees
through disciplinary action.
Use of intermittent FMLA leave. When an employee takes FMLA leave intermittently, the employer must
account for the leave using an increment no greater than the shortest
period of time that the employer uses to account for use of other
forms of leave. However, the increment of time may not be greater
than 1 hour. An employee’s FMLA leave entitlement may not be reduced
by more than the amount of leave actually taken, meaning, if an employee
leaves during the last half-hour of his or her shift for an FMLA-covered
event, the employee may not be "docked" a full hour of FMLA leave
(even if this is the shortest period of time that the employer uses
to account for use of other forms of leave).
Every employer should have a policy that addresses all
of the issues that surround sickness. Consider the following questions
when evaluating or implementing your attendance policy:
• Who should be notified when an employee is
sick, and when? Experience has shown that having absent
employees report their absence directly to their immediate supervisor
tends to reduce the absentee rate. This may be a nuisance to the supervisor,
but it usually discourages employees from having others call on their
behalf or by simply leaving a message. The policy should also state when an employee should notify his or her supervisor and how
often he or she must call in (e.g., every day for short absences,
or every week during an extended absence).
• What disciplinary action may be taken? Clearly define what constitutes an unacceptable level of absenteeism,
what disciplinary steps will be taken, and under what circumstances
an employee's absenteeism rate reaches that level.
• When is a medical excuse or medical release
required? If an employee has been absent for several days
due to sickness, will a signed medical form be required for that person
to return to work?
Remember to include the GINA safe harbor statement
in all requests for a doctor's note in order to avoid claims of genetic
It is critical to coordinate your attendance policy with
other company policies such as sick pay, leave of absence, personal/family,
disability, jury, bereavement, and military leave as these issues
sometimes overlap. Verify that all of your policies comply with federal
and state laws and are applied equally and consistently to all employees.
No-fault policy. A no-fault attendance policy is similar to a no-fault lateness policy.
Employees are allowed a specified number of absences within a specified
time period. Once that number of absences is exceeded, disciplinary
procedures automatically are instituted.