Honest HR

Managing Time & Attendance: Calling Out Employees Who Call Out

Episode Summary

Managing employee attendance is challenging: Employers and people managers need to know not only if employees are showing up to work, but also what to do if they don’t. In this episode of Honest HR, host Amber Clayton speaks with SHRM Knowledge Advisors Barbara Holland and Julie Schweber about handling scenarios such as fishy doctors’ notes, no call/no shows, and above all, the importance of getting all the information before moving toward adverse action.

Episode Notes

Managing employee attendance is challenging: Employers and people managers need to know not only if employees are showing up to work, but also what to do if they don’t. In this episode of Honest HR, host Amber Clayton speaks with SHRM Knowledge Advisors Barbara Holland and Julie Schweber about handling scenarios such as fishy doctors’ notes, no call/no shows, and above all, the importance of getting all the information before moving toward adverse action.

Learn about SHRM's People Manager Qualification (PMQ)

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This episode of Honest HR is sponsored by ADP.

Episode transcript

Episode Transcription

Speaker 1: Business success requires thinking beyond today. That's why ADP uses data-driven insights to design HR solutions to help your business have more success tomorrow. ADP, always designing for HR, talent, time, benefits, payroll, and people.

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Monique Akanbi: Welcome to Honest HR, the podcast for HR professionals, people managers, and team leads intent on growing our companies for the better.

Amber Clayton: We bring you honest, forward-thinking conversations and relatable stories from the workplace that challenge the way it's always been done, because after all, you have to push back to move forward.

Wendy Fong: Honest HR is a podcast from SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, and by listening, you're helping create better workplaces and a better world. I'm Wendy Fong.

Amber Clayton: I'm Amber Clayton.

Monique Akanbi: And I'm Monique Akanbi. Now, let's get honest.

Amber Clayton: Now, let's get honest.

Wendy Fong: Now, let's get honest.

Amber Clayton: Hello, everyone, and welcome back. I'm your host, Amber Clayton, Senior Director of SHRM's Knowledge Center operations. On our episode today, we're going to discuss the technical competency, HR expertise, employee and labor relations. This podcast is approved to provide recertification PDCs, but only if you listen to the full episode.

I think I could say that most employers have had to deal with absenteeism at one time or another in their career. It could be so frustrating when you have an employee who decides not to show up for work, or they call, they have a tendency to call out on Fridays, on the weekends, giving themselves a long holiday weekend. I can actually visualize many of you listening right now in your car nodding your head up and down. Well, hold on, because we're going to talk about some of those employers' experiences and how you can deal with them.

I'm pleased to be joined today by my colleagues from the Knowledge Center, Julie Schweber, Senior Knowledge Advisor, and Barb Holland, Knowledge Advisor. Hi ladies. Welcome to the show.

Julie Schweber: Thanks, Amber.

Barbara Holland: Hi.

Amber Clayton: Thank you for coming. So some of you may know Julie and Barb if you're SHRM member and you've called to the Knowledge Center before, the Ask An Advisor service, but I want to give them a chance to tell you more about them themselves. So Julie, let's start with you. Please share a little bit about yourself with our listeners.

Julie Schweber: Sure. I'm Julie Schweber, and I'm one of the senior knowledge advisors here in the Knowledge Center, and I've worked at SHRM for four and a half years now. Prior to that, I worked for 20 years in HR as a practitioner in both Fortune 500 organizations as well as nonprofits. And I'm delighted to be here. Thank you.

Amber Clayton: Great. Thanks so much, Julie. And Barb?

Barbara Holland: As you heard, my name's Barbara Holland. I've been a knowledge advisor for the last four and a half years with SHRM, and I've been in HR for over 35 years in nonprofit global, and most of it in California, which for our multi-state employers, I know that you love my state.

Amber Clayton: Yes, we do. And I'm shaking my head no. I'm just kidding. We love California.

All right. So now that our listeners have gotten to know a little bit more about you, let's go ahead and jump right in. We know that absenteeism can be a huge headache for managers and HR. Could you share what types of questions or scenarios that you've received in the Knowledge Center around absenteeism?

Julie Schweber: All right. Well, I'll jumpstart on this one. The employee brings in a doctor's note every time they're absent.

Amber Clayton: Yes.

Barbara Holland: Yep. Another one is employees who call in for a day or two and they just don't show up.

Amber Clayton: Ooh, yeah, I've had some of those. What about those employees... I was just going to mention the employees with the pattern of calling out on the weekends, that call on Fridays on Mondays, "I want that long weekend."

Barbara Holland: Mm-hmm.

Julie Schweber: Right, yeah. How about the new employee and they're still in their probationary or introductory period and they already have several absences?

Amber Clayton: Yeah.

Barbara Holland: Yeah. Also, what do employers do when employees have exhausted their sick leave or PTO and they continue to call out or have a need to be gone?

Amber Clayton: Yeah, that's definitely a recurring question that we've heard in the Knowledge Center.

Barbara Holland: Mm-hmm.

Julie Schweber: Absolutely. How about the exempt employees constantly coming in late?

Amber Clayton: Oh, yeah, that's a good one.

Barbara Holland: Or a posting on social media. They called in and said they're not going to be there because they're not feeling well, but the social media post looks like they're having a great time in a really fun place.

Amber Clayton: Yeah, I definitely have a story around that one.

Julie Schweber: And then we get this one, too, a lot. Should we have an attendance point system at our company?

Amber Clayton: Okay. That'll be good to talk about because I know some employers may not know what those point systems are. So that's a good one.

Barbara Holland: Mm-hmm. And one I've had a little bit more recently is around employees calling out because of medicine issues. In other words, the doctor is trying to find the right course, and the employee's really having a rough time, and so they can't come into the office due to the medicine regime that they're on.

Amber Clayton: Yeah, absolutely. So I mean, quite a few, and this, of course, is not an all-inclusive list. We know there are many more scenarios out there, but I think most HR professionals who have had to deal with employees with attendance issues have probably had one of these scenarios or questions in their mind at some point during their HR career. So with that, though, let's talk about what should be done in these types of situations. Julie?

Julie Schweber: Well, I guess I'll circle back to one of the questions about bringing in a doctor's note every time they are absent. An employer may wish to take a look at do they have a policy or practice that may require a doctor's note, not necessarily every time, but after a certain period of time, reasonable, say, three days or more. And generally, if they're bringing in a doctor's note every time, we want to look at is there a medical reason, is there a disability, is it covered under FMLA, so some of that alphabet soup that we call it in HR that might apply. So we have to look at each case uniquely and examine all the facts before we can decide what's the best course of action.

Amber Clayton: Yeah, I think sometimes that employers think that if the employee brings a doctor's note, there's nothing they can do about it, and that's not true. We know that employers can have their own policies with respect to absenteeism. And even if someone brings in a note, if it's not protected under any type of federal, state, or local leave laws, like the Family Medical Leave Act that you mentioned, the FMLA, or the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, then potentially, they might still have grounds to take disciplinary action, including termination of employment. But of course, you always want to make sure that you dot your i's and cross your t's before doing anything like that, taking any action. But I think just to know that just because someone has a doctor's note doesn't necessarily mean that's going to cover them and protect their jobs.

Julie Schweber: Mm-hmm.

Barbara Holland: Mm-hmm. I often used to say the doctor's note might give me an idea that, being from Southern California, you're not at the beach playing. You may have a legitimate reason that you're gone, but it still could be excessive absenteeism and it can still have a negative impact on the organization. So it may not be that the employer's questioning that they're gone, but it could still be excessive, and as you said, disciplinary action could be taken.

Amber Clayton: Yeah. And let's talk about this for a moment, because I had this scenario a long time ago in a previous position where I had a gentleman who brought a doctor's note in, and it looked awfully familiar, and I realized that the writing was very similar to a previous doctor's note that he had. So I know that we've had some members who have asked us, "Can they call a doctor or a doctor's office? Can they verify that the doctor's note is valid?"

Barbara Holland: Yes, they can call the doctor's office and ask, "I have a note. It's indicated from your office," or, "This doctor has sent this note on behalf of this employee. Was this note written by the doctor?" They can ask that. They can't ask what it was for. You can't get into diagnosis information, but you can ask if it's a legitimate note produced by the doctor's office.

Amber Clayton: Yeah, and I think that's a really good point about asking for more information, because most doctor's offices aren't going to be able to give it anyhow unless the employee has signed off to allow the employer to get that information. So Julie, what's your take on that? Do you have a different experience?

Julie Schweber: You know, I would ditto exactly what you both said. And you know, you want to be careful, exercise caution, and have some type of rationale or consistent application. Are we only picking on someone due to what could potentially be a discriminatory reason, or are we doing this for anyone in a similar situation? So you want to have your business case or your rationale for doing it so you don't get in any type of perception of unfairness or discrimination.

Amber Clayton: Yeah. And I'll tell you about that one particular scenario that I mentioned where the handwriting was exactly the same. I actually put the two notes up to the light, and sure enough, it was the same exact writing except for the date had changed. And so at the time, I did in fact contact that person's physician to find out whether or not they had written the note, and they had not. So we did in fact take disciplinary action on the individual as a result of it. But yeah, that was an interesting one because had I not noticed that the handwriting was the same, they would've gotten away with that. Oh, tricky, tricky, sneaky, sneaky, right?

Julie Schweber: Right. Yeah, that's a good one, too. You know, and a lot of employers might have some language in their policies about doctor's notes or even in their conduct about, "Hey, any type of falsification or misrepresented facts or notes may result in disciplinary action." So it's kind of like you're tag-teaming it with not only your sick policy or your doctor's note, but also in your conduct policy.

Barbara Holland: And I'll say that's an important piece, that code of conduct policy. I've had quite a few calls where members do not have a code of conduct and when, all of a sudden, they're facing where somebody has falsified the record or they're not being truthful and they don't have something to reference that, that could be a disciplinary action. So attendance policies are important, but also because in that scenario, if I have a note that's not from the doctor, now not only do I have an attendance issue, but I do have a falsified record, and I want to be able to address that. So it's important to make sure look at your code of conduct policy, and do you have information in there that's referencing lying, or honesty, or ethics, or unprofessional behavior, all the types of things that might be in a code of conduct policy.

Amber Clayton: Yeah. And it's not to say that if an employer doesn't have a code of conduct policy or they don't have an attendance policy, it doesn't necessarily mean that they can't take any action at all. I mean, certainly they can create one. They can still take action if, for example, the employee is in an at-will employment state, which we know all states in the US except for Montana are at-will, which basically indicates that employers and employees can terminate the relationship at any time without notice, without reason. I mean, obviously, you don't want to have any reason that's illegal, like discrimination, as you mentioned, Julie, but just because they don't have a policy doesn't necessarily mean they can't do anything. But it's always a good practice to have policies in place.

Barbara Holland: Yes.

Amber Clayton: So talk about the no show, no calls. I mean, gosh, so many times we've had members who have contacted us about no show, no calls, and I know I've had to deal with this in my employment history before. I can remember a particular one, actually two, where the employees didn't show up from work and it was really uncharacteristic of them. And I was very concerned, I was worried, and one of them, I ended up calling his emergency contact, which happened to be his ex-wife, unbeknownst to me. And so when he learned that I called his ex-wife, he was extremely upset with me for contacting her, but I was very concerned. There was another gentleman who also didn't come in, didn't call, we were very concerned, had someone go and do a welfare check, and he was fine. He just decided not to come to work. These scenarios happen. So talk to me about the no show, no calls.

Julie Schweber: Yeah. Back to your point, it happens and it happens quite frequently. And a lot of times, an employer might have genuine concern, and a lot of times, you want to look, is it a pattern, is it uncharacteristic, or is this someone that was not performing or meeting a company's expectations anyway, because that kind of can help make a decision, "Gee, this is really out of character. Do we want to call the local authorities to go by and do that welfare check?" The other thing is, too, if it's someone that maybe they got hit by a truck and they're in the hospital in a coma.

So it's a delicate situation where you don't want to take any type of adverse or knee-jerk reaction right away. You want to give a chance if there are extenuating circumstances. A lot of companies will reach out, like you say, to either the emergency contact or try to reach out directly to the employee. Some employers have what's called that job abandonment policy, where if someone fails to call or fails to show up for a certain number of days, say three days, then they consider that to be a voluntary resignation. And a lot of times, if you're reaching out, maybe sending a letter to an employee's address or to an email, it'll say, "If there are extenuating circumstances, please reach out to us right away. We're generally concerned about you."

Barbara Holland: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Amber Clayton: There was another incident where we learned, unfortunately, that an employee had passed away when they had not come into work. And so I appreciate what you said about the knee-jerk reactions, Julie, because I think as employers, sometimes we're like, "They didn't come in, we were short-staffed, it created all this mess for us," but then they don't realize that something has happened to that individual. And so I think that goes back to being empathetic for our employees as well, because especially nowadays with mental health issues and individual struggles, personally, financially, mentally, you just don't want to make any assumptions that somebody has just decided that they're going to take a vacation and not tell the employer.

Barbara Holland: I think most employees appreciate that because if something is wrong, I mean typically, if you have somebody who comes to work and that's out of character, something might be wrong and you may be the one phone call that gets them the help that they need. So I think most employees appreciate that. The ones who don't like it are the ones who actually get caught, as you mentioned, by doing something they probably shouldn't have been doing. But one of the ways that I used to address this was during the orientation, because I always spoke to our attendance policy so people understood what were the expectations. And I also informed people that, "If you don't show up or call in a timely manner, we may call your emergency contact person to make sure you're okay," so that they were aware this might happen. So if they get upset because they did, they did have advanced notice that this was a practice of the organization because we actually care about you.

Amber Clayton: You know, I've also heard of situations, too, where employees have actually been arrested. Obviously, they weren't able to come to work, so in those circumstances, many employers may not be aware, but states have laws with respect to arrest and convictions and employment decisions. So if an employer were to terminate someone and there happened to be a state law that doesn't allow employers to terminate on the basis of an arrest alone, that could potentially be an issue for the employer. And so that's another thing that could potentially happen if somebody's out of work and why you want to look into it before you take any kind of adverse action.

Barbara Holland: Mm-hmm. I think I'd add one more thing to that in terms of a job abandonment. But don't wait too long. I mean, investigate what you need to know. We've had calls where somebody was gone for five days or two weeks and they're now asking what to do.

Amber Clayton: Wow.

Barbara Holland: I mean, that's a really long period of time, and if your policy says, "We consider it job abandonment after three days," well, what's the justification for giving seven more days past your policy? Because now you've actually violated your own policy. So pay attention to your policy and do your investigations as quickly as you can. If you don't have information, you can't find it, you have a three-day policy, for example, send that letter out if you have extenuating circumstances, and then the employer can address that. But waiting and waiting and waiting can cause other issues.

Amber Clayton: Absolutely. And if you're violating your own policy, who's to say that you're not going to violate other policies? I mean, that's something that a lawyer could look at it and say, "Well, you let John Smith go here two weeks without being at work, but then you terminated Cindy over here," and now it looks like you're being discriminatory because Cindy's a female and she had this issue. Whatever the case may be, I mean, you want to make sure that you comply with your own policies and practices.

Barbara Holland: Right.

Julie Schweber: Mm-hmm. Good point.

Amber Clayton: So let's talk about the employee that has exhausted their paid leave but continues to call out, because I feel like that's just one that we get quite often. Some employers believe that once they've exhausted their vacation, their sick time, their PTO, then they're not allowed to call out anymore, which could very well be the company's policy. Then, the question is, "Well, how do I deal with it if somebody still continues to call out and they've exhausted everything?"

Julie Schweber: Right. Yeah. And this is a tough one, very common one, and it's never an easy situation. But generally, an employer wants to look at the circumstances behind those absences to determine if it is any type of medical-protected or disability-related leave that may fall under the Family Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or even many states today may offer some type of protected leave or sick leave. So again, you don't want to take that knee-jerk reaction as an employer, but examine those circumstances because there can be protected leave that is protected by various regulations, even if they have exhausted. Not saying it has to be paid. It might be unpaid leave. So that's something that an employer wants to really look at what's going on with that employee.

Amber Clayton: Yeah, absolutely.

Barbara Holland: Mm-hmm. I think your reference to the ADA, I think, is really important. I find that that's not the common thought when somebody's calling out sick. It's really, "I need them here," and so it's kind of the focus is disciplinary, which that may be appropriate, but if there are other medical issues going on, that ADA process, asking the questions, engaging in that interactive process to find out what is happening, and would a leave be necessary, and if so, could the organization accommodate a leave. So I think it's really important to look at all of the reasons, not only is there a pattern, but also what are the reasons for the absences. Even when they were legit. If somebody calls out sick and they tell you why they're out, if you see a pattern and it does appear to be a medical-related situation, you don't have to wait till they run out of sick leave to address it. You can address it right away and say, "Hey, there may be protections under ADA," even while they still have paid leave available to them.

Amber Clayton: Yeah, that's good advice. So let's talk about the new employee. And I find this interesting because my 18-year-old daughter just got a job recently and she was told that if she calls out one time within the first 30 days of employment, she will not have a job. If she calls out twice within a 90-day period, the first 90-day period, she will not have a job. So I thought, "Wow, they must not keep a lot of employees." But maybe they do. They're very strict compared to some employers that I've heard of. But talk about that, where someone comes in, they're new, and then all of a sudden, they start asking for time off, things that you didn't even know about when you interviewed that person. They didn't share it before they were hired or after they were hired. They just started to call out.

Julie Schweber: Yeah. Yeah, that's a tough one. I mean, it almost goes back to the previous question. Is it because their car broke down, or their TV broke? You know, something that would not be protected leaves as it might be under ADA or any state-specific leave. Some of those states have leave that may be available right away. So I would caution an employer until they know the full details and the circumstances, even with a new person, to find out some of those reasons behind it.

Barbara Holland: And I think you have to recognize that somebody could be legitimately sick. I remember starting a job when I was in college. I was a bank teller, and I got horribly sick like day two of my job, and I wasn't going to go in. I had a fever, I was not doing well, and I called and I was like, "I'm so sorry. I have never done this. I have a track record of rarely calling out." But I was very sick. So I think there needs to be a little bit of understanding, especially now, after COVID, we don't want people coming in to the workplace bringing in illnesses and getting others sick. So there needs to be a, "Is there a pattern here? Is there a legitimate need for this person?"

Now, if they're asking for time, you can say no, but I would also pay attention. Probationary period is not kind of encapsulated in, "I can do whatever I want to this employee in the probationary period." Probationary periods are just an area, like if you had a person on a performance improvement plan, you're just watching their employment during a certain period of time. It doesn't mean that I get to be more mean or lenient during this time, just I'm watching, and as I'm watching, I might see something and I might raise it and I might give advice on how they're going to be successful beyond this period that I'm watching. But in a probationary period doesn't give you the right to just go, kind of to, Amber, your daughter's situation, "Oh, well, you're in probation. You're gone." That's not a good practice.

Amber Clayton: Yeah. And I'm glad that you brought that up about the probationary period because we've talked about this before how probationary period makes it sound as if once you're past that time, you're good to go, you're not going to get fired, you have employment permanently, and that's just not the case. That's why we encourage instead to use initial review period or orientation period. That's not to say that an employer can't use probationary period. However, I think there could be some challenges there if something were to happen to an individual and they said, "Well, I made it past my probationary period, so I don't know why I got fired." So it could kind of go both ways with the employer and how they treat the employee, but also, too, what the employee's perspective is on the probationary period and whether or not they get past it. So I'm glad that you brought that up, Barb.

So let's talk about the social media. I love this because... Well, I don't love it, but I will tell you, it reminds me, I walked into work one time and someone came into my office and said, "Are you going to fire so and so?" And I said, "Why would I do that?" "Well, she called out this week and I saw her at the salon, she's getting her nails done, and it was on Facebook." And I was like, "What?"

So I'll never forget that. That was a really interesting one because I actually had a couple people approach me saying, "Are you going to let her go?" Because they knew that it was wrong what she was doing, and she was, in fact, out, and she was basically at the spa having a wonderful day, and she very well could have said that she was sick and needed the spa treatments and the nails done. Maybe that'll help her feel better. I don't know. But talk to me about social media and how we respond to this question, when the members call and say, "My employee's supposed to be out on leave, sick leave, and I see them online and they're in The Bahamas."

Julie Schweber: Mm-hmm. I mean, that's a tough one. Look at the facts, and are you trolling everybody's social media when they call out or are we singling out one employee? There are circumstances. If someone is on a protected FMLA leave, for example, they may still be able to travel or go somewhere to relax. That could have been doctor's orders. So I probably wouldn't have a knee-jerk reaction, but look at, "Is this a pattern? Does the person call out excessively?" Maybe you engage in a conversation with that employee when they return and give them an opportunity to speak. There may be a legitimate explanation. Who knows? But that's unlikely.

Amber Clayton: I need that doctor. Yeah, I need that doctor to tell me that I need to get my nails done and I need a spa day just to recoup and recover from whatever illness I have.

Barbara Holland: They're mental health days in some organizations, and sometimes they just need a day to take a break.

Amber Clayton: That's right.

Barbara Holland: Yeah. I've actually had employees call in and say, "I'm stressed and I just need a day for myself. Is that okay?" And our policy was you could. And so I think Julie's advice is that find out what's going on, just don't react. I think where we see a lot of this is with FMLA, where somebody may do something, it ends up in a lawsuit, and an employer loses because they didn't take the time to find out what was going on and asking the right questions. So do your research, do your investigation, ask what's going on before you assume that the person is ill will and trying to just take extra time.

Amber Clayton: Well, I think, too, it comes down to communication and trust. If they're lying about the reasons why they're leaving and then you find out otherwise, of course it's going to be an issue. But if you have a good relationship with you and your employee, hopefully they'll tell you the reasons why they want to take off, they won't be afraid to ask off, or if they're concerned that the employer won't allow them the time off. Hopefully, there could be a communication or some type of conversation between the two of them. But I think it's when people lie is when it becomes a bigger issue.

Barbara Holland: Mm-hmm.

Julie Schweber: Yeah, that's a good point, too. And this is why I think PTO programs have become so popular, because you could say, "I need a mental health day. I'm going to take this day as a PTO day." Often, folks can plan out those scheduled mental health days or vacation days, or of course, the call-outs for legitimate reasons, like being sick. But some employers have swung to PTO as opposed to vacation sick, because if you never call out sick and then you've got a bucket of sick days that may not carry over, it kind of may incent employees to call out versus having a bucket of PTO sometimes where you can use it for any and everything and you may be more inclined to use it without having to make a false excuse for calling out.

Amber Clayton: Yeah, absolutely. So let's talk about exempt employees. I love this because I know we've had this question multiple times for members around exempt employees and whether or not you can hold them accountable to working a set schedule, and what if those exempt employees come in late, they leave early, they call out, what can be done. And we're not talking from the pay perspective, because I think that's a different podcast when we talk about exempt pay. And I should say for our listeners, exempt meaning that these individuals are not eligible for overtime. They are typically paid on a salary basis and they have minimum salary requirements under the law. So when we talk about exempt employees and their attendance, those are the individuals that I'm speaking of. So Barb, tell me about the exempt employee. Can they just do whatever they want, come and go as they please?

Barbara Holland: Some think they can, and some employers wonder what they can do, and absolutely, employers have the ability to set schedules, hold people to those schedules. So if I, as an exempt employee, need to be at work promptly at 9:00 and I show up, I wander in with my coffee and donut in hand at 9:30, I could be disciplined for it. As you mentioned, the pay podcast is something else. You're not going to be able to affect my pay, but you can discipline me for not being there. It's a reliability issue. So you can hold exempt staff to schedules, you can even hold them to schedules that might say, "I need my exempt staff to work 45 hours a week." The employer has that ability to designate what those hours look like, and then when an exempt employee doesn't follow that, then that's where the disciplinary process could come into play.

Amber Clayton: Yeah, I think that some employers would be surprised to know that exempt employees can be required to punch in and out on a clock. You obviously want to be careful about not treating exempt employees like hourly non-exempt employees. However, employers can still track their time using time sheets, time clocks, same thing as non-exempt hourly employees.

Barbara Holland: It's actually a very common practice in my nonprofit world, because we used to bill grants based on the hours that were put in, like attorneys have to track their time to the client account. And so exempt staff can be required to do that based on projects. An employer might want to know how much time is being spent on various projects. So again, you can track the time. It just can't roll into a pay situation.

Julie Schweber: Well said. Well said, Barb.

Amber Clayton: So let's talk about, and this is kind of like the doctor's note, but the change in medicine and when the change in medicine occurs and people start to call out more frequently. Talk a little bit about that and what employers can do.

Julie Schweber: Yeah, that's a tough one also. These are all kind of tough questions.

Amber Clayton: I was going to say, Julie, I think you said every one of these is tough.

Dealing with attendance issues is never easy. Nobody ever wants to have those conversations with people.

Julie Schweber: Right, exactly. But you know, a change in medicine, hello, you're dealing with a medical condition of some sort or a potential disability. So when employees have those medicines changed, they can impact somebody's ability to perform a job, it may take some acclimation period to get adjusted to it. So there could be some growing pains as they work with their doctor to figure out just the right dose or just the right type of medicine, so that very well could be a protected type of situation, whether it's leave or intermittent leave under the FMLA or protected under ADA as a potential disability.

Barbara Holland: It doesn't mean, though, that you can't address it, and I think that's what sometimes the members feel like, the employee comes in and says, "Oh, I've had my medicine changed and it's causing me to oversleep," and they're showing up an hour late. And that very well may be what's happening, but the employer still can ask for the physician certification under ADA to say, "What kind of accommodation do we need to make?" And the physician may come back, let this person have a more flexible start time or allow them to start a little bit later while they're getting adjusted to the medicines.

So you don't have to just take the employee's statement and be able to act on it. You can, you want to find out what needs to be done, and that's the accommodation piece under ADA. It may just be a short-term accommodation. It may be a week or two and everything gets normalized and they can be back on their normal schedule. But it's, again, I think earlier you said, communication and trust. It's having that conversation and engaging with the employee to see how can you help them, and that also lets them know you're watching and you care. If you don't say anything, you don't do anything, they might start to wonder, "Well, do they even notice that I'm coming in late?"

Amber Clayton: Yep, that is true, that is true.

Well, lastly, let's talk about, you just said, Julie, great point, the point system. Let's talk about the point system. We've had people who have asked us about whether or not they could have attendance policies, including this point system. Can you, Barb, just give a brief overview of what the point system means and whether or not employers should or maybe should not do it?

Barbara Holland: Sure. So the point system's really, in a sense, it kind of tries to take away HR from having to determine, "Is this a legitimate absence or not a legitimate absence?" and it's just a very straightforward mathematic. If you're out, it's a point or two points. If you call out and it was unplanned and you didn't call in at a certain period of time, it's... Point system is assigned to the various types of scenarios which might indicate what kind of a call-out, planned absences, unplanned absences, things like that.

The point system, however, there's a negative side to it that you have to really be careful when you do use a point system is when it comes to FMLA, because certain absences can't be counted in a point system, and when employers do, it can get them into trouble. Because typically with the point system, you may have something that says, "Within a 12-month period of time, if you have X number of points, it's going to lead to termination of employment." So it's really important to pay attention to any types of leaves that could be protected, and in those protected leaves, were points assigned due to the absences, if it was a ADA, FMLA, or something like that. Did I miss anything on that, Julie, on the point system process?

Julie Schweber: No, I think you hit all the valid points, Barb, on that one.

Amber Clayton: Funny. Such a joker. I love it, Julie.

Well, we talked about a lot of different scenarios, and I know we've mentioned a few times about the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the FMLA, and we didn't go into great detail about that on this call because I feel like that could be a whole nother podcast in itself, just like the exempt compensation. But certainly for listeners who are members of SHRM, they can find more resources specific to this topic as well as those types of protected leave, and we actually have a toolkit called Managing Employee Attendance, which has a lot of great information in it. So SHRM members, if you are a SHRM member or if you'd like to become one, visit shrm.org, and you can just contact the Knowledge Center, the Ask An Advisor service for assistance at shrm.org/hrhelp.

So Julie and Barb, before we wrap up today, is there anything else that you'd like to share with our listeners about attendance and just dealing with these attendance issues that happen very regularly, I should say?

Julie Schweber: Yeah, I think if I could leave the listeners with one piece of advice is, don't feel you need to react so quickly. Examine all the facts and then move forward.

Barbara Holland: Yes. And I would say apply your policies consistently. So whatever your policy is, follow it and follow it from person to person, from scenario to scenario, because you get into trouble when you don't.

Amber Clayton: Absolutely, absolutely. Well, that's good advice from both of you. So thank you so much ladies for being here and taking part in this episode today.

Barbara Holland: It was a pleasure. Thank you.

Julie Schweber: Thank you.

Amber Clayton: Great. And for our listeners, this podcast is approved to provide recertification PDCs, but only if you listen to the full episode. After you've listened, you are eligible to enter this activity ID 23-4FXUQ. Again, that's 23-4FXUQ for recertification PDCs in your SHRM certification portal. And if you haven't already, please subscribe so you'll never miss an episode, and be sure to rate and review the show wherever you listen to podcasts. Feel free to reach out to me. You could find me on Twitter, @shrmaclayton. And if you'd like to learn more about the Honest HR podcast, about myself or the other hosts, or to get additional information and resources on what was discussed in today's episode, head on over to shrm.org/honesthr. And to learn more about other SHRM podcasts, check out shrm.org/podcast. Thanks again for joining us on Honest HR.

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