Suspension Without Pay?

My friend took 2 weeks off work without notice to go on holiday. When she came back, she was told they aren’t paying her for that month and suspended it until next month. is this allowed?

Signed— A Friend

Dear Friend: It’s kind of you to be concerned about your friend and to seek advice that might help her. There are several questions posed that must be answered to your question: Is this allowed.? I’m not sure what you mean when you wrote “aren’t paying her for that month and suspended it until next month.” Do you mean she was suspended or that she would not be paid for the time off she took?

Danica Rice, an alum of our School of Communication Studies and who is one of our Human Resource Guest Respondents, poses the kind questions that need answered in order to answer the big question about suspension: “With regard to your question. My first question is what state is this in? And the next is what policy is in place to support the suspension? Finally, was the friend/employee aware of this prior to departure or did she just leave? Did she have approval to even leave in the first place? There are so many additional questions that need answered and so much more information that needs to be acquired before one could even attempt to properly respond to this question. This certainly isn’t a quick yes or no answer, unfortunately.”

To make it easier to talk with you about your friend, I’ll use the name Jan. The more important concern for Jan is how she is evaluated regarding job skills and performance, taking responsibility for being on work on time, honesty, and attitude. I encourage you to help Jan to face up to how she is perceived–how long Jan has been employed at this workplace and how well she gets along with her supervisor and coworkers.  Although apparently you are not employed where Jan works, you should be able to have a pretty accurate picture of how Jan is viewed by the way she has talked to you about this workplace. If Jan has been suspended probably her talk before as well as after the suspension has been negative. Now if Jan is allowed to return to work, she will be monitored, and if her performance and attitude are not good, you can predict the next matter will be talking to you about is being fired and searching for a new job.

Unless Jan works for a company that has a union, the odds are that management can do what is within its own rulebook. Just as an employee can quit when she/he wants, so can management fire if it wants to. Ask the Workplace Doctors wants fairness and cooperation for both those who boss and those who are bossed. Our goal is not to focus on what is allowed or not allowed. Of course, Jan needs to get the facts and reasons for/her suspension without pay and to learn if it is supported by the company’s policies and labor laws, but most likely that is not as important as her improving job performance and communication.

Our goal is to provide advice that improves communication between and among employees and management. Foremost that entails asking questions and seeking clarification of job instructions and duties. Working relationships hinge on frequent communication. Talking about how the bossed and bosses talk to and about one another is an important step toward making communication clear and cooperative. Whether work is miserable or satisfying depends on good working relationships. Can you help Jan to honestly review what has happened, what she did that resulted in suspension and what to do from now on to prevent that?

Finally, please understand that we know our advice is not an answer to your question. From afar it is impossible to do more than suggest aspects that should be investigated in order find a way to work through a difficult situation. Guest Respondent Danica Rice emphasizes this when she reflects on her job as an HR specialist. In an additional few words to what she had earlier to your question are: “I am learning that everything in this area doesn’t always need/require an immediate response despite the sense of urgency (that is actually what causes or gets people in trouble). It is important to gather information (many don’t want to take the time to investigate or do due diligence because there’s so much “work” to do). The reality is if we don’t, we could have more “work” on our hands or even worse a lawsuit or face jail time.”

Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Please let us know how this matter is resolved if you have time. We wish the best possible for your friend and your friendship.

William Gorden