businesses are struggling to keep track of employee absences, and it’s costing
them big in productivity, revenue and legal fees. And it’s only getting worse.

Recent stats
from The Standard’s Absence and Disability Readiness Index show a growing need
for HR and training managers to get out front and develop programs and policies
that employees understand and can follow.

Only 1 in 4 HR pros report having successful absence management programs, according to the survey. Many HR pros will tell you that managing absence is one of their biggest headaches. And a lot of it has to do with the federal laws that regulate employee absence – the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Unexplained or excessive absences

In fact, one
employer is now in court because it fired an employee for missing two weeks of
work ­­– an absence that it approved as FMLA leave until its FMLA coordinator
realized the employee wasn’t eligible for FMLA coverage because she hadn’t
worked 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months.

In Byrd v. City of Houston, The Houston
Emergency Center fired 911 operator Iyhana Byrd and she is now suing for
violation of her FMLA rights.

That’s why
it would be important for HR to choose an FMLA point person or persons to know
how much FMLA leave each employee has used, including dates and reasons.

company, Alcon Laboratories, fired an employee on FMLA leave, but was justified
in its firing, said a court ruling.

In Shoemaker v.
Alcon Laboratories
, a female employee experienced back pain,
headaches and dizziness, but she never told her employer that these symptoms
prevented her from doing her job.

one occasion, she passed out at work and was sent home. She returned with a
doctor’s note recommending that she work in a different job until further
evaluation, but she’d already been removed from that job.

few weeks later, she called to say she would not be at work but provided no
excuse for her absence. She’d exhausted her paid time off, so she was issued a
final warning. She was subsequently fired for, among other things, her
unexplained absence.

employee sued, alleging that the company interfered with her rights to receive
FMLA leave and retaliated against her. The court, however, disagreed.

employee must “provide sufficient information for an employer to reasonably
determine whether FMLA may apply to the leave request,” and she failed to
do so, the court said.

aren’t required to read the minds of their employees or guess the reasons
behind absences.

employee needs to mention a medical condition or even something as vague as “I
need time off.” This would trigger the interactive process.

Growing trend

of these cases points to a growing trend of employers’ inability to manage their
attendance policies. These rulings highlight the need for employers to maintain
written attendance policies that detail disciplinary action.

 “Employers are in a much better position to
defeat FMLA interference and retaliation claims with meticulous tracking of
time off and communication with the employee regarding unexcused absences,”
says employment attorney Tasos Paindiris, Jackson Lewis in

keep up with employee absence regs and DOL guidelines, employers need to put in
place a robust management program – to define, measure and benchmark absence –
to help avoid a lawsuit. Here’s how:

If your policy requires employees to
call in if they’re going to be late or absent, you can discipline employees on
leave for not complying with it. However, call-in policies must be applied
consistently for all forms of absences. Another best practice: Requiring
employees to use specific absence forms to make sure they stay compliant with
your policies.

with chronically absent employees can be tricky, especially when those
employees are disabled. But there’s good news: Courts are confirming that regular
attendance is an essential function for many jobs under the ADA.

Get help from vendors.
Work with outsource providers that have ADA and FMLA compliance built into
their offerings.

absence management.

Get your entire HR team involved in compliance and absence management. For
example, assign one employee FMLA absences, while another concentrates on ADA

Provide training.
Employers might offer training to their managers on how to best manage absences,
as well as the basics of employment law. The Society for Human Resource
Management offers onsite training or an online learning platform like Degreed
can offer company-specific courses to managers to be able to identify
conditions, communicate with employees, implement  accommodations and track absences.

Establish procedures.
Give employees a set of guidelines to follow when reporting they’ll be absent
or late for work, including:

  • a
    method for tracking attendance (this might include time clock attendance
    software that tracks PTO, FMLA, etc.)
  • a
    list of approved absences (and required documentation)
  • when
    disciplinary action is taken, and
  • a
    procedure for requesting time off.

every accommodation request.
 In an ADA case, Vitti
v. Macy’s Inc.
, an employee claimed the company didn’t accommodate her
illness, then fired her because of her condition after she returned from
medical leave. But the employer said the worker had chronic attendance issues
even before her medical leave. She also never submitted the proper paperwork
for an accommodation. The court said the worker couldn’t be denied an
accommodation she didn’t ask for.

That’s why employers need to make it
clear to employees how to ask for accommodations and then track all those

The post Better training to help managers enforce attendance rules (and stay FMLA compliant) appeared first on HRMorning.

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