Excessive Unexcused Absences!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about absences and pregnancy:

Someone under me at my workplace has had 22 unexcused absences in 10 months of employment. Issues have been didn’t feel well, baby not well, babysitter not well, weather not good, etc. As of last week, absences are allegedly related to early pregnancy. My employer has incredibly generous leave and sick leave benefits. My manager is offsite and says there is nothing that can be done about this. She wanted to start to work from home several months back, but I disagreed since we are a service organization (within a think tank..R & D). At that time, I casually mentioned to someone in HR about her excessive absences. HR agreed she should be counseled. Because I did not agree to working from home, she agreed to 4 day work week. Her absences decreased for a few weeks and now she’s back to missing at least once a week.

My boss has told me to not trust HR so I don’t want to go to them. Morale is not good, particularly not good for me since I have to do a lot of her work when she is absent. What do you advise? I love my job, have nearly 7 yrs employment here. I am baby boomer generation and this new nurse is a gen-xer. Pls advise. Thank you!

Signed, What To Do?

Dear What To Do?:

The question raises questions:
1. Is the problem person exempt or nonexempt and is this person being paid for time off? Would guess that she is exempt based on description.
2. What do the Personnel Policies of the company say with regard unexcused absences, time sheets/reporting, who is responsible for counseling in this situation, what is the scope of the questioner’s responsibility (hire-fire, reporting, other)? What is the responsibility of the “boss” as defined in the Personnel Policies?
3. If this is a Think-Tank like I worked for in Washington D.C., it is largely funded by federal funds. If this department and this person are funded with any governmental funds, there are additional requirements.

Many R&D Think-Tank consulting company types are small; some are family owned and have rather relaxed HR policies. Notwithstanding other information I would:
1. Not take any action contrary to my “boss”.
2. Be sure there is documentation of the issue (unexcused absences, communication with “boss”, direction given by boss and others in company)
3. Document separately impact on the questioner’s workload and ability to meet his/her objectives in his/her job description.
4. Not to act in ways contrary to policy or supervision’s directions. and 5. Try not to appear to be overtly “papering” the issue to embarrass the “boss” or any one else. Don’t get caught in the middle. It sounds like this could easily happen if the “boss” doesn’t trust HR (this statement defines the “boss” in relationship to the organizations structure). What is your goal? It seems as if your first goal is to keep your job and secondly to follow company policy. Lines get blurred in between. Since you say this woman with excessive absences is under you, I assume you have some measure of authority over her. That needs clarification, so that you know what you can do.

It sounds as though you need to get your superior’s go ahead to discipline, suspend, or have a graduated shape up or ship out plan. If so, make your case in both in writing and orally to show how Ms. Missing Often puts the load on you and/or others. Hope this is of help. Working together effectively is empathic but also requires taking mutual responsibility. In short, think and act to make WEGO the rule.

Jack White & Bill Gorden