It is an unfortunate fact of life that people get sick or injured. While sympathy should go out to those with health issues, employee absences from the workplace can cause tremendous logistical problems for businesses. A missed week is a minor inconvenience, but a medical condition or severe injury can leave managers and employers wondering where they can turn to resolve the matter.
195 absences was 15 too many
A former employee for Cargill Meat Solutions was dismissed after 195 absences in a single year. Employees are granted 12 weeks leave under FMLA and many courts will even allow reasonable accommodations after that time. This employee was granted nine months leave (which translates into 36 weeks/180 days), but she claimed that she needed additional time whenever there was a recurrence or flare-up of her condition.
It was those 15 additional absences that led to her dismissal, which the Eighth Circuit court upheld. According to reports, the court based its decision on the fact that this request for additional time off was almost immediately after the employee’s return to work. Moreover, the court ruled that the company’s published policy for requiring regular attendance as part of the job description was reasonable.
A good employee handbook works for both sides
Of course, an employee handbook should outline the rights, protections and protocols for both employer and employee, but sometimes it still can lead to court. Cargill seemingly bent over backward to accommodate the employee with post FMLA time off, yet those good intentions were supported by clear rules about expectations for a job description. Working with an attorney, businesses can ensure that all foreseeable issues are addressed to protect and foster a healthy business.