Employee playing the system

This should be a funny one. We have an employee who has been missing work quite often. We suggested FMLA and are currently awaiting the paperwork. While explaining that the coverage is only for twelve weeks the employee stated that if his FMLA is used up he can still miss two or three weeks at a time and only have it count as one occurance so long as it is consecutive. Now our handbook does say that so long as the absences are consecutive it is one occurance. The way it works now is if you are even a minute late it is an occurance and if you left early that same day it is two. If you just didn't come in it is one and if you are out three whole days it is still only one. So in theory he is correct but we never intended the policy to be used in this manner. Do we need to revise the handbook to state that there is a limit to how many days in a row an EE can miss or should we just explain that although in theory he is correct we will not follow the policy in that manner? And if we do relay to him that the policy will not be administered in that fashion what should be the maximum for days off in a row?


  • 13 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • However your deal works out,do not charactize the employee as "playing the system" except to your lawyer---that type of comment will result in a huge verdict,with the jury looking at the comment and not the merits...and get some legal advice---and I mean some real advice---not the pap that most lawyers palm off as advice with the "on the one hand this,on the other hand that"...good luck...mike maslanka
  • No, I do not refer to the employees in that manner. Not even to our attorney. I did not even address the issue with him. I want to make sure I have all my ducks in a row before I discuss his interpertation of the rules with him. This is just an employee who has always walked that fine line on attendance issues. He has been with the company for quite a few years and back in the day when we accepted doctor's excuses, he had excuses for everything. We still have an excuse from when he had "the runs". He has been on termination notice for attendance for the last four years. He goes the six months without a day missed and as soon as he is off notice he misses four days here and there and is right back on notice. As I said, always walking the fine line. I only refer to the employee in this way, on this board because lets face it, in our line of work we have all met the same employee. You probably have a close cousin of his working for your company.
  • I DID have his cousin working for us!! Her reason for an absence was "vociferous flatulence" (and I am giving a direct quote there) I wasn't even sure what vociferous meant, but I think it meant "an abundant amount"

  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 01-05-03 AT 11:23PM (CST)[/font][p] I consider myself fairly knowlegable in the medical field but even I have no clue what that is. Did she explain?

    Oh my. Do a a google search with vociferous flatulence as your search words and read the second one down. If this is what she meant, I can sympathize but it is no excuse to miss work!
  • I had a feeling I should not follow your suggestion and do that search. But noooooooooooo, I had to do it anyway. Wish I hadn't.............
  • My first question is whether you are unionized as that may have an impact on whether or not you can change the policy. My advice to you is NOT to go against policy since it does not give a timeline regarding how long the employee can be gone and only receive one occurrence. Regarding the FMLA issue remember that the employee has 15 days to provide the paperwork to you and if he does NOT provide it within that timeframe without some reasonable explanation, you do NOT have to approve his absences. I assume you have a "no fault" attendance policy which can be a nightmare to administer (I know since I have worked for companies that have these). Instead of providing a timeline regarding how long an employee can be gone and receive only one occurrence my suggestion is to revamp the policy to state something along the lines of "repeated abuses of the attendance policy resulting in employees reaching warning levels will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination". We had this in one of the companies I worked for and once we started implementing it, it was amazing how quickly people stopped this abuse.

    I hope this helps!
  • I agree about re-vamping the policy with the caveat that there will always be those who, rather than focus on their work, focus on how they can play the system. No matter what the policy, there will always be some way around it. Good luck.
  • We are not unionized so there are no issues with that. My issue is we run a pretty tight ship. We run a relief system so if one employee doesn't show up another employee has to stay. We will grant FMLA if warranted but I just cannot see allowing more than 12 weeks in one year. There has to be some way to say "if you're sick, you're sick but we just can't allow you to miss 4 more weeks on top of the 12 you already took.". For the most part we don't have too many that abuse the attendance policy but I am certain that if this guy is just allowed to miss weeks at a time other employees will begin to complain about it.
  • Okay here's another thought...

    Remove the "consecutive days absent with only one occurrence" completely from the policy. Make it a one occurrence per day regardless of the length of time they are gone. Once three days pass and an employee is absent it is more than likely going to be FMLA qualifying anyway. In addition this removes the mindset of taking the extra time without necessarily needing it. I remember a situation I had with a former employer that allowed two consectutive days absence being counted as one occurrence and an employee walking into a supervisor's office (I was standing there as well) and telling him that the employee would see him in two days as he was leaving because he accidently had his wife's car keys in his pocket!! An absence that would have taken one hour at the most suddenly became his being gone two days!

    Shortly after that the company removed that portion of the policy and it became one occurrence per day unless it was FMLA qualifying. We gave the employees 30 days notice of the change then implemented it. When they complained we told them that they could thank their co-workers for the necessity of the change due to abuses of the system.

    To this day I think the policy is still in place.

    Hope this helps!
  • PAhr: From your posting it appears to me that your "tight ship" ain't so tight, if your company has allowed this turkey to fly with eagles, when he is only a buzzard for so many years, then why the pressure now? Basically, I envision a need her to start all over with this "buzzard" and clear his mind that he is neither a "turkey" nor an "eagle". Here is the way the system works and here is the way to fly! If he violates these clear guidelines it is time to cage the problem and toss it out with lock and key and never to soar again.
  • When I say a tight ship I mean that if one person misses work someone has to cover. Although I feel we should have extras on every shift so that others aren't getting stuck, we do not have that in place as of yet. As far as firing the guy, I would love to but as I said, he flies just below the radar. Always on the edge but never quite enough to terminate.
  • I think there is a correlation between the "lawyer pap" that Mike S. refers to and vociferous flatulence. In either case, steer clear!
  • You're right, we have all had this employee or his cousin working for us at one time in our career.

    It sounds like you probably do not have an ADA situation to deal with, so that is good.

    A couple of things that you may want to consider for you attendance policy that we have are the following:
    1) Discipline for patterned absenteeism that falls outside of the "counting" system that you have for the policy. This may include, but not be limited to absenses around weekend and/or holidays, absenses that occur shortly after the employee "comes of notice," etc.
    2) Limit the number of times an employee can reach final written warning over a 12-month or 24-month period. Doing this requires the employee to straighten up his attendance, but longer stretches of time.

    While these suggestions might be helpful, you will still have to face the music with this guy when the rolling 12-month period for FMLA rolls around -- he'll be back out again on a FMLA-qualifying absences. In such case, do all that you can to "manage" such leaves including requiring information to be provided on a timely basis, requiring updates every 30 days, using the 2nd opinion option to ensure that he is able to return to work. Sometimes keeping him out for longer period of time when he is out on such a leave may actually benefit the company. You have already found a way to cover for the guy when he is on leave so no one is "getting stuck" having to stay when he reports off. This makes him eat up the 12-weeks FMLA period. Once he eats it up you are back to the same cycle, but there will be a time when he slips up, and you will "cook this turkey."
Sign In or Register to comment.