What Employers Need to Know About Protected Absences

Posted by Andrew on April 8, 2019

Employees need access to paid time off to recover from illnesses, address family matters, and take well-deserved vacations. However, there is a big difference between an employee who calls out sick to recover from the flu and an employee who calls out frequently for no apparent reason. Every employer knows that chronic employee absences are bad for business; however, not all absences are punishable. In fact, federal law protects many of them.

Before employers begin disciplinary action against chronically absent employees, they need to make sure the employee didn’t miss work for any of the following reasons:

  1. FMLA. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees to take time off work to deal with major life events. These include the birth of a child; adopting a child; caring for a severely ill or injured parent, spouse, or child; severe health conditions that prevent the employee from working; and personal or family emergencies related to their involvement with the military. To qualify, employees must provide documentation such as a doctor’s note, adoption paperwork, etc.
  2. USERRA. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act protects service members against disciplinary action following absences due to their service. For example, the military may activate employees serving in the reserves, requiring them to deploy. This act protects absences related to tours of duty as well as absences spent addressing emotional and administrative issues related to the deployment.
  3. ADA. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with documented disabilities. If an employee misses work because his or her duties cause undue hardship, federal law protects that absence.
  4. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. While this act focuses on preventing discrimination in the workplace, employers need to keep it in mind when addressing absences. For example, the act protects employees who call out for a religious holiday or ceremony. Employees need to determine the root cause of an absence before beginning disciplinary actions; otherwise, they may find themselves facing a discrimination lawsuit.

While the above absences have legal protection, not all absences are legitimate. Employers need a robust absence management solution to help them keep track of employee attendance and determine which absences are reasonable and which require a closer look. Contact the experts at Actec to learn more about reducing absenteeism in the workplace.