There are a number of federal and state time-off entitlements that employees can utilize. This can make it difficult for even the most competent HR administrator to stay compliant with all the laws. Some administrators and owners may even be reluctant to terminate an employee on attendance-based issues because of complications and potential legal problems if they violate the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
However, employers and HR professionals can confidently protect the company if they pay careful attention to the number of absences and make note of the reasons.
Beckman v. Wal-Mart
This case is helpful in illustrating how employers can protect themselves against absenteeism The employee was notified in 2014 that they had 110 hours of unexcused absences. Per company guidelines, the employee was informed that any additional absentee infractions would lead to dismissal. The employee missed additional time a few weeks later and was dismissed. The employee applied for FMLA protection two days later. The employee also claimed after dismissal that he asked the company to switch him to a different job that did not require heavy lifting as a shipping loader to accommodate a disability.
The court rulings
In this case the appeals court ruled that the employee was not protected by FMLA because he was dismissed before he applied. The ADA claim was also denied on the basis that the job description of heavy lifting was an essential function of the job. Therefore, the employer was not required to provide the accommodation. There was also no evidence that the employee had asked for a transfer to a different job that did not require heavy lifting.
Employment guidelines and good record keeping
The above is a simplified version of a case that was more complicated, however the reason why employer won the case is simple. The HR department had clear guidelines in regards to absenteeism and how it would be handled. The department followed those protocols. Accurate record keeping also supported the employer’s case in court, leading to favorable decisions.
An attorney can help HR departments and business owners draft protocols about excessive absences, request for transfers and other issues. This will help protect them, as it did for Wal-mart, in a court of law.