Is workplace investigation required where employee leaves early every week?

I have an employee that calls in or leaves early at least once every other week if not every week. Reasons are stated as being for herself and for her kids. I feel this is being extremely abused. Her position is one that requires another employee to cover when she is not here. The absences are not warned and seems to be when we are in a bind and she will say she has to leave. When she leaves she will then send a text saying she’s not coming back to work, this in addition to any day I (her manager) is not in she will find a reason to leave or stay late at lunch. I am keeping track of every time this happens and it is filling my calendar. I have had meetings with my department and one-on-one with this employee to stress the importance of her position to be covered at all times. I stressed the importance of her position. This has made no change to the attitude or performance of this employee, actually seems to get worse after a meeting.

Rita Risser replies:

First of all, you need to do a workplace investigation by asking her for the reasons for her absences. If they are to take care of a disabled child, or due to a serious medical condition of the employee, then you have legal responsibilities and need to work with HR. Some states and cities require employers to give time off for school activities, child care and the like, so you need to know specific reasons for the absences (and you can require proof of those reasons). Assuming the reasons are not legally protected, the next question is does your company have a policy regarding attendance? If so, you need to enforce it. Enforcing it does not mean “talking” to the employee. It means “warning” the employee if she continues to violate the policy she will be terminated—and then terminating. If your company does not have a policy, you can (with approval of HR) create your own departmental attendance policy. Announce it to the whole department, and you can also have a one-on-one with this employee and let her know that any violation will lead to discipline up to and including termination. Lastly, you have to make sure that the policy (whether company or department policy) is consistently enforced. You should keep track of the attendance of all of your employees so you can prove that none of the others are doing the same.

Posted 04-13-2016

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.

2016-04-13T16:50:54+00:00

About the Author:

Rita M. Risser Chai is the founder of Fair Measures. An attorney in California for 20 years and now an attorney in Hawaii, she authored the Prentice Hall book, Stay Out of Court! The Manager’s Guide to Preventing Employee Lawsuits. She developed most of the curriculum used by Fair Measures, created the firm’s first website praised in HR Magazine, and wrote numerous articles on employment law including one on best practice harassment prevention training published in the magazine of the American Society for Training and Development (now ATD). She taught Law and Human Resources at the University of California, Santa Cruz, for eight years, and has presented four times at the annual conventions of the Hawaii Society of Human Resource Management.