Tina, your administrative assistant, arrived 30 minutes late today and didn't follow your company's absentee call-in procedures. When you ask why she was late, she only says she had a rough morning. But she's later overheard telling a coworker she had to find a babysitter for her sick child. Can you discipline Tina for failing to follow your company's call-in policy?

Beverly Garofalo, managing partner in Jackson Lewis' Hartford office, told attendees at CBIA's Annual HR Conference that because 14 state and federal leave law: including Connecticut FLMA, Federal FMLA, ADAAA, Connecticut Paid Sick Leave (CPSL), and Connecticut Pregnancy Disability Leave: could protect this employee, the answer isn't always clear.

"There's no perfect answer because every single absence has to be analyzed individually," she said. "There's just no one-size-fits-all type of approach."

In Tina's case: assuming your company is one that must comply with CPSL: she is eligible for paid sick leave because she's considered a service worker. Child care, the reason for her absence, would also make her eligible: if she had she told you the truth. But if she violated your company policy on call-in procedures, you can take disciplinary action.

Three-Question Test

Garofalo advised attendees to ask three questions when faced with a challenging leave of absence scenario like Tina's:

  • Is the employee entitled to be absent with job protection?
  • Has the company committed to providing additional job-protected leave?
  • Is additional leave required as a reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities?

While Garofalo acknowledged these questions may not resolve every leave problem, they do provide a framework for helping HR comply with laws like CPSL and keep their companies in compliance.

"[The laws] are changing so fast," said Victoria DeBarge, office manager at Tri-Com Consulting Group in Middletown, who also serves as the company's HR department of one. " My main goal is making sure we remain compliant."

Other Tips

  • Give managers basic training on what protections their employees have under the law. Education will help them avoid making the wrong personnel decisions and putting your company in a difficult legal situation.
  • For situations not covered by CPSL or FMLA, create policies with clear disclaimer language that give your company full discretion to determine when absences become excessive. Explicitly state that the company can take any action at any time.
  • Treat all of your employees the same. If you allow one employee to make up missed time, give all of your employees the same opportunity. Document your rationale when you make exceptions not extended to your entire workforce.