Tardiness – Everyone will arrive late to work on occasion due to unexpected traffic problems or unavoidable occurrences prior to leaving home. Tardiness becomes a problem to be dealt with when it becomes too frequent, when the arrival time is too far beyond the start time, or when a pattern forms. A supervisor must exercise judgment within general guidelines in determining when tardiness becomes a problem to be addressed. Some general guidelines are:
Late more than twice a month for any reason. If, for example, an employee is 5-10 minutes late once or twice a week due to traffic problems, he/she should consider traffic delays a part of the commute and leave home 5-10 minutes earlier so that, when a delay occurs, he/she will arrive on time.
Tardiness in excess of 10 minutes.
Patterned tardiness. For example: (1) late arrival on days when it can be predicted that there will be heavy public contact first thing in the morning; (2) late arrival on the first day back to work from regular days off, e.g., Monday mornings.
Absence without Leave – When an employee does not report to work and he/she has not had the time off approved, the absence should be coded on the timecard as Absence without Leave (AWOL code 060), not Leave without Pay. The supervisor should call the employee’s home to determine why they have not come to work and, to advise them that they are Absent without Leave. Upon their return to work, the employee should be interviewed and, if he/she provides an acceptable reason for the unapproved absence, the time can be changed to vacation or sick leave, as appropriate. AWOL can occur when an employee fails to report to work, when he/she leaves early without approval, or when he/she cannot be found during the day. Charging an employee AWOL and coding the timecard as such does not constitute disciplinary action. In many cases, a charge of AWOL should also result in corrective or disciplinary action.
Abuse of Sick Leave – Abuse of sick leave occurs when an employee requests and uses sick leave for reasons other than those listed in the Ordinance Code or MOUs. Generally, this occurs when an employee calls in sick and is not ill. It is unusual for a supervisor or manager to discover that an employee has abused sick leave. When such a discovery is made, it is usually because the employee who has called in sick is seen shopping, golfing, or engaged in other activities inconsistent with an illness that would prevent him/her from reporting to work. If this occurs, call Employee & Labor Relations immediately for assistance in conducting an investigation.
Failure to return from an approved Leave of Absence – When an employee is granted a leave of absence, the leave is granted for a specific duration, and a letter is sent to the employee reminding him/her of the date on which he/she is to return to work. If the employee does not return on that date and did not previously contact the supervisor or manager to request an extension, he/she is considered Absent without Leave. Call Employee & Labor Relations if this situation occurs.
Excessive Absenteeism – This is the hardest area of leave administration to define. In determining whether absenteeism is excessive, you need to consider a number of factors, including the number of days absent, and whether the absences are for one or two days or for extended periods of time. You will also need to know whether the absences fall under the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), including intermittent leave, or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Number of Absences – Although there is no set number of absences that constitutes excessive absenteeism, a good rule of thumb is no more than 8 unscheduled absences in a year. If an employee calls in sick more than 8 times per year, you should see this as an issue requiring discussion. Remember that the number of absences is merely an indicator that a problem may exist.
Duration of Absences – Generally, numerous one or two-day unplanned absences are considered more of a problem than a single absence lasting a number of days. If, however, every year an employee has a circumstance that results in a one or two week absence, this should also be reviewed as a possible problem.
FMLA and ADA Considerations – If, when you interview or counsel an employee about excessive absenteeism, he/she makes a statement to the effect that he/she or a member of his/her immediate family has a serious medical condition, it is possible that the employee’s absence(s) is/are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If the employee makes such a statement, or any statement about having a serious illness, contact the County’s ADA/TWA/LOA Coordinator at 363-4738 for guidance. Under the FMLA, covered employees are entitled to use up to 12 weeks (480 hours) of leave per calendar year, in block time or intermittently, to care for a serious medical condition for themselves or members of their immediate family. Do not attempt to make a determination as to whether an employee is covered by FMLA on your own.
If an employee has a medical condition that is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), time off may be considered a reasonable accommodation. If an employee requests reasonable accommodation under the ADA, contact the County’s ADA/TWA/LOA Coordinator – do not make “informal” or “unofficial” accommodations on your own.
There are also sometimes situations where scheduling prohibits a supervisor from granting the full amount of leave requested by an employee, then the employee calls in claiming that due to some unusual event or circumstance he/she is unable to return on the agreed-upon date. The following are two such scenarios, and guidance on how to handle these situations.
Scenario I: Harry requests two weeks off to visit Hawaii over Christmas. After checking the workload, his supervisor tells Harry that she can approve the first week but not the second. On the Monday morning that Harry is to return, he calls the supervisor stating that his return flight has been canceled and he will not be able to report back to work until Thursday or Friday depending on when a flight can be booked.
Recommended Response: First, the supervisor should ask Harry for a phone number at which he can be reached. Then she should tell Harry that he is needed at work and must make arrangements to return on the first available flight, regardless of airline. She should also tell Harry that, upon his return, he will be required to provide substantiation from the airline that the flight was canceled and that his return flight was the first available. The supervisor should call the airline to confirm that the flight was canceled and to find out if earlier return flights were available. She should then discuss her findings with her manager and, if action is warranted, contact Employee & Labor Relations.
Scenario II: Jane wants Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day off. Her supervisor checks the schedule and determines that, in order to balance requests from all employees, Jane can have one day off but not both. He tells Jane that, if she will work on Thanksgiving Day, she can be off on Christmas Day. Jane agrees to this arrangement. On Thanksgiving, Jane calls in sick.
Recommended Response: If Jane says that she is too ill to report, the supervisor should tell Jane that she must present a physician’s statement upon her return stating that she was too ill to report to work. He may also want to schedule Jane for Christmas Day and let another employee take that day off.