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Dear Workforce How Can Our Managers Combat Chronic Lateness?

What sort of support or advice can HR offer managers who have employees who continually go into "dock payroll" status, and have sketchy and unreliable attendance? I know there are legal implications to terminating these employees, but what efforts should we take before getting to that point?
August 17, 2010
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Related Topics: Attendance, Disabilities, Dear Workforce
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Dear Support for Slackers:
Before you can determine the appropriate next steps, do a bit more information gathering. There are many reasons people are late or absent from work: Some reasons are legally protected and some are not. Start by meeting with the employees to figure out what is going on.
First describe the situation as you see it to the employee and ask him or her to clarify the reasons for the absences. For example, say something like the following: "Jane, I see that you have missed work the last three Fridays and were late on the 12th and 16th as well. I would like to understand the reasons you have been out so we can figure out what we need to do together." Then listen to the answer and evaluate it in context.
One of the more common outcomes of a conversation like this will be that you learn about a medical issue the employee or a family member is having. HR is pretty well versed in the Family and Medical Leave Act, but most employees (including managers) have only a vague idea how it works. Often an employee's missed time is protected leave, but he or she didn't notify the right people about the need for time off or use the right words to describe the problem. Once the situation is thoroughly explained to someone who understands the nuances of this law, clear FMLA guidelines and expectations can be set with the employee.
Occasionally, absences or missed time due to a medical issue triggers the need for an Americans with Disabilities Act accommodation. I remember a situation years ago with an employee who was frequently late to work. After discussions, the employer learned the worker had a chronic illness that required him to take some strong medication each morning. Often the medicine made the employee nauseous, and he had to lie still until the feeling passed. This meant he was unable to catch the early bus and so got to work late. The employer adjusted the work schedule so the man started an hour later. This ensured he could recover from the nausea and could still catch a bus that would get him to work on time.
SOURCE: Ellen Raim, vice president of human resources, Cascade Microtech, Beaverton, Oregon
LEARN MORE: Solving tardiness can be a thorny issue for some organizations.
Workforce Management Online, August 2010 -- Register Now!
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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