Disclaimer: Scenario Saturday is a weekly feature that will deal with complex employee relations issues. Jennifer offers Human Resources advice, however she is not an attorney. It is always recommended that you consult your company’s policies, federal/state laws and legal counsel before taking any action.
One of your managers, Mike has come to you for advice regarding one of his employees, Karen. Karen has been with the company over six years. Her overall performance is very good until recently. This year, Karen has been out eight times for various reasons, which were non- FMLA. Some of Karen’s excuses have been car trouble, flu and sick childen. Her performance has gone down considerably and she has developed a bad attitude with the new schedule changes.
According to your company’s attendance policy, if an employee receives eight absences, he/she would be terminated. Mike would like to have her terminated. He feels that Karen has been a cancer to the group with her negativity. He has been unhappy with her performance, attitude and attendance.
There are some concerns about her termination. You have looked through her file and you do not see any warnings regarding Karen’s attendance. Mike stated that he has had several conversations with Karen that were undocumented. Karen is a member of a protected class under Title VII. She also has the personality of being vindictive. It is very possible that she may try to sue the company. What would you do in this situation?
Recommendation: Karen should not be terminated in this situation. If Karen is terminated, you open the company up for legal exposure. Currently, there is no documentation trail that Karen has been warned about her absences. The company would have no defenses in fighting any lawsuit/claim that Karen may launch.
You should recommend to Mike that Karen should be put on written warning or Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). He can put in the document previous discussions he had with Karen regarding her attendance. In the PIP, he should address his concerns about her attendance, performance and attitude. The PIP should provide realistic expectations on how Karen can fix the issues. It is always important to have another member of management as a witness to the discipline. The decision may not always be the most popular decision with management; however it is important that the company does the right thing.