What are my options if an employee constantly calls in sick?

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If your employee has violated your sick leave policy, you can take disciplinary action.

The key is to make sure that the sick leave doesn't fall under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

FMLA Explained

If you have 50 or more employees who work at your location or within 75 miles of that location and have worked for you for at least 12 months for at least 1,250 hours in that time period, they might be entitled to a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave for any of the following reasons:

  • Birth of a child and to care for the newborn
  • A newly adopted or foster child who needs care
  • Care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition
  • When the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition

It's important to have open communication with your employees about their reasons for calling in sick to determine if it falls under the FMLA. If you're unsure about an employee's status under FMLA, it might be a good idea to ask your attorney for clarification.

Steps to Take

Keeping in mind that you can't discipline employees who qualify for leave under FMLA, the following steps will help you determine if your employee is abusing your sick leave policy.

  • Find out the reason for the employee's absence. It's usually a good idea for the employee's supervisor to interview the employee and find out why they called in sick.
  • Require notice from a physician if employees miss a great deal of work due to illness or injury. This will also help you determine if their absence should be covered under FMLA.
  • Determine if the employee gave proper notice. For example, your policy might state that employees must speak directly with supervisors when calling in sick, rather than leaving a voicemail. Appropriate notice should also be given if the employee is using FMLA for time off.
  • Compare the employee's attendance to fellow workers. Is the absence excessive compared to others in similar positions?
  • Meet with the employee to go over your concerns about absenteeism and set out the consequences for further abuse.

Final Tips

It may be time to update your sick leave policy if employees are taking too much time off. Otherwise, if you only have one individual who's abusing the policy, then it's time to start asking the right questions and documenting the answers.

Helpful Links:

US FMLA Fact Sheet

FMLA Fact Sheet - Employee Notice Requirements

Human Resources Management Association - Managing Absenteeism in the Workplace

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